Opera House Trust ignores architect’s call for upgrade delay

The former assistant NSW government architect who designed the Sydney Opera House’s popular lower forecourt has called on the Opera House Trust to halt planned upgrades to the nation’s most significant building until a new conservation management plan is approved.

The Opera House will from this year undergo the biggest upgrade in its history, a $202 million repair of the Opera Theatre and then renewal of the Concert Hall from 2019, but the conservation plan covering the building is 14 years old and predates the Opera House’s World Heritage listing in 2007.

Andrew Andersons wrote to Opera House management in October to urge it to relinquish its architecture-by-committee approach and appoint a single firm to oversee upgrades and to rethink its plan for disabled ¬access elevators that would cut a hole in the unique stairs designed by Jorn Utzon.

“There is no doubt the Opera House is one of the top half-dozen most significant architectural achievements of the 20th century in the world,” Mr Andersons said.

“It’s nothing short of miraculous that we have this building and it has become a symbol of Australia internationally, instantly recognisable.”

He wrote the letter after studying the plans and finding them riddled with cost-conscious, pragmatic compro¬mises that he said did not befit a building of international importance.

He said cutting side stairs for disabled access would “subvert the fundamental concept of Utzon’s movement of patrons over the podium to all levels of the ¬building”.

“Aesthetic unity is of paramount importance, there should be one design architect in charge (and) the renewal process should be scrutinised by a highly ¬informed and qualified de sign review panel.”

He has not received a reply from the trust.

The Opera House upgrades have been developed within the framework of its conservation management plan developed in 2003, though a new draft was put on public display in 2014.

The Opera House declined requests to view that document and could not explain why it had not been implemented despite the previous working document being 14 years old.

Spokeswoman Jessica Gooch said: “This is in final stages of ¬development and therefore not available to share.”

The Australian this week revealed Opera House management had sought permission to stage corporate events 99 days a year on the Opera House Forecourt, a threefold increase.

- The Australian

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