News

From storerooms to ‘concert hall’: creating a new visitor experience at Sydney Opera House

Jennifer Shand Jennifer Shand Australasia Press Office,Sydney
11 March 2021

Visitors to Sydney Opera House have a fascinating new venue on their guided tour, created with input from Arup’s acoustic specialists. 

The team helped ensure the elegant space could recreate the feel of a Concert Hall performance after its conversion from back-of-house storerooms, cool room and an office, working with architects Scott Carver, Artists in Motion and the Sydney Opera House.

Arup was responsible for the clever acoustic treatments that let visitors enjoy the immersive sight and sound experience, undisturbed by noise from the nearby equipment rooms, public amenities or busy passageways.

Visitors touring a digital experience with light projections and sound at the Sydney Opera House Visitors touring a digital experience with light projections and sound at the Sydney Opera House

In the new space patrons see and hear special moments from past concerts and events on a 270-degree digital projection and surround sound, and learn about the future of the Concert Hall.

(Members of the public are currently unable to access the world-famous Concert Hall as it undergoes a major renovation and upgrade, also with the involvement of Arup.)

We needed an acoustic experience that catered for the amplified, recorded sounds of different performance styles (which were coming from speakers in several locations) through to the live voice of the single tour guide. ”

Daniel Jimenez Acoustic Consultant

“We worked closely with the architects on the shape and finishes of what’s become a long timber-panelled rectangular room with new walls and new high ceilings,” said Daniel Jimenez, Arup acoustic specialist.

“The existing walls helped separate this space from public amenities to the north, however a massive new partition had to be built to separate it from cool rooms and back-of-house passageways to the south, as well as from air conditioning equipment supplying the room with cool air.”

This mechanical services equipment includes a 2.5m-long noise attenuator to reduce the noise from the air conditioning fans, to prevent them overpowering the audio from the immersive experience.

 

“The room is quite unconventional - a long and relatively narrow space about 20m by 6m,” explained Daniel.

“This shape allowed us to think about a length-wise acoustic transition: you enter through one end of this long room and experience coming into a performance space, with a substantial amount of acoustically absorptive finishes hidden behind the brushbox panels.


“As you walk the length of the room into the experiential area, you become surrounded by hard surface projections and increasing reverberance, giving visitors the impression of walking into a larger volume space to be then fully immersed in the digital experience.”


Daniel continued: “We had to allow for noise build-up; even the doors needed acoustic treatments as well as being power-assisted to provide disability access and egress.

“The number of people in the room changes how sound reflects and is experienced, so we also had to consider how many people are in a tour group as well as attending an event or performance – which are the other potential uses of the space. 

We were very conscious of the heritage values of Sydney Opera House, with Arup having worked on the building since its earliest pre-construction designs. ”

Daniel Jimenez Acoustic Consultant

Arup senior acoustic consultant Mitchell Allen said: “The result is a truly immersive acoustic experience that supports the story being told in the oculus - an amazing story of the history of one of the most recognisable concert halls the world over and a building with which Arup has had a long and proud history.”

Read more about our history with the Sydney Opera House.

The completed Tours Immersive Digital Experience room The completed Tours Immersive Digital Experience room