New report aims to ensure Sydney Opera House’s future is all white

The Sydney Opera House is a national treasure.

The Sydney Opera House is a national treasure. Photo: ABC

There is no disputing the Sydney Opera House is a beloved cultural icon, but the matter of how to preserve its condition and status is less straightforward.

The Opera House has released its fourth plan in the building’s history, Respecting The Vision, which ponders everything from alcohol consumption within the building, to the impact of the Sydney skyline.

It has been 14 years since it last published a conservation management plan, with the last edition released in 2003.

Architect Alan Croker, the report’s author, called the Opera House “a performance in itself”, urging that no matter what, fundamentally it should remain as a fully functional performing arts centre.

“[Jørn] Utzon’s vision was not only to provide space for the performing arts, but to elevate and celebrate them,” he said.

“That’s basically its DNA, that’s its reason for being and without having performing arts in it, it just becomes a mausoleum, a dead monument.

“It also should remain as the most iconic 20th century building that we have in Australia, and possibly the world.”

Mr Croker proposed several ideas on the best way to achieve that goal, including reconsidering when and where drinking should be allowed within the building.

“Part of the role of the conservational management plan is to identify those things that may need to be tweaked, or may need to be reconsidered where they may be causing undue damage or degradation to the fabric,” he said.

“It doesn’t say that it shouldn’t happen, but it does say let’s think about it – the Opera House has a policy now whereby they only allow drinks in for functions where people consider that it is an appropriate thing.”

When visitors at the Opera House were asked what they thought about the no drinks suggestion, many said that was perhaps going a step too far.

“It’s important to preserve the idea and preserve the building itself, I’m not sure about the actual not drinking,” one visitor said.

“To some degree yes, but people these days, they’re adults, they need to be able to limit themselves and be able to have a good time while at the concerts,” another visitor said.

Keeping ‘overly white’ objects away from shell

The report is extensive, looking into everything from interior changes – including acoustic – and external events held at the Opera House.

It goes on to say that while the location is ideal for events such as concerts, it advises that the infrastructure should be kept as minimal as possible to avoid ruining a visitor’s experience.

“And when it is over, all traces must be removed as quickly as possible, leaving the place and its fabric without damage and as it was before,” the report said.

It also looked at the space surrounding the Opera House, such as protecting it from the long shadow of any new skyscrapers in the process of being built.

Mr Crocker also noted the importance of not placing any “overly white” signage, lighting, furniture, railings that might compete with the effect of the sails.

The report’s author, architect Alan Crocker. Photo: Sydney Opera House

They did not understand this effect, he said, until during Jørn Utzon’s reengagement in 1999.

“He pointed out the fact that the shells, the tiles on the shells, are actually not pure white, they are [two shades of] cream,” Mr Crocker said.

Mr Utzon compared placing any white object near the shells, or anywhere on the site, to “replacing somebody’s mouthful of teeth with one new white tooth”.

“[Mr Utzon said] all the others will suddenly look as though they’re discoloured and not white,” Mr Crocker said.

“Whereas if you put something darker there you will always get the sense that the teeth are white.

“So it was about contrast, not having anything which would compete with the whiteness and reflectivity of the shells.”

Mr Croker said the Opera House had a “wonderful future” ahead of it.

“It’s in a remarkable condition, [and] all of the people who work there – and there’s an awful lot of them – they all have a passion for the place, it’s a remarkable place to work and to be in,” he said.


Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.