Sydney Opera House: A Conservation Approach Informed by Stories

Kerry Ross

Root Partnerships Pty Ltd, at Sydney Opera House:

The Sydney Opera House is a world-class performing arts centre and is recognised internationally as a modern architectural masterpiece. Being one of Australia’s premier tourism destinations, it attracts over 8 million visitors annually. The building is famous for its innovative use of structural concrete and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007.

My paper and presentation – co-authored by Gianluca Ranzi, Greg McTaggart, Bob Moffat, Beatriz Lee, Mike Cook (representing the Sydney Opera House Trust, the School of Civil Engineering, The University of Sydney, and Arup, Australia) – describes how oral history collection, storage and presentation formed a key element in the development of a Concrete Conservation Framework (CCF) for the Sidney Opera House, a project supported by the Getty Foundation through its ‘Keeping It Modern’ initiative. The framework has been formulated to be adaptable and expandable to support the conservation of other twentieth century concrete structures throughout the world.

Gathering historical information, from various documents and through interactions with people involved with the building over the years, was key to gaining insight into the construction and complexity of the building. This process included interviewing original and early engineers and builders to obtain oral histories of their time during the construction and in the years post opening.

The information is a key part of the CCF, and is stored in a Repository of Knowledge which is linked to an internal Building Information Management Model. It is anticipated that this information will be able to be accessed by means of mobile devices to facilitate inspections and data collection to maintain and preserve the building.

Photo: Copyright Sidney Opera House