Australia’s most famous building and number one tourist attraction today unveiled a state-of-the-art Welcome Centre where visitors can explore the Opera House’s rich cultural and architectural heritage and vibrant contemporary programming.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment, officially opened the Welcome Centre, the first project to be completed as part of Stage 1 of the Opera House’s Renewal program. Stage 1 comprises a suite of works to renew the state, national and World Heritage-listed building for future generations of artists, audiences and visitors.
Located on the Opera House’s Lower Concourse, the Welcome Centre incorporates heritage interpretation of the site and digital content showcasing the performances inside, along with a retail store, tour meeting point, cloaking and ticketing area. The aim is to provide an information and orientation hub for the 8.2 million visitors who visit the precinct each year.
A Welcome Plinth is also being installed at the entrance to the site, incorporating a specially recorded Acknowledgement of Country soundscape. The bronze plinth – due for completion in early 2016 – will mark the beginning of the Opera House’s new visitor journey and celebrate the Indigenous heritage and cultural significance of Bennelong Point.
Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP said: “The Opera House is one of Australia’s most significant cultural icons, so it is important that its history and heritage are understood and valued by all Australians and protected for future generations. The new Welcome Centre will transform the way visitors experience the Opera House and all that it represents both as an architectural masterpiece and as one of the world’s busiest performing arts centres.”
The Minister was joined by Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM and local schoolchildren from Crown Street Public school to celebrate today’s opening. The students were among the first people to try out the new facility, before they were guided on a tour of discovery inside the world-famous Opera House.
Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM said: “This new Welcome Centre invites people to explore the Opera House’s cultural significance and discover the incredible artistic experiences that are shared here by millions of people each year – from contemporary music and intriguing speakers to the very best of classical arts and creative shows for children and families.
“The Opera House has become the symbol of modern Australia. It’s great to see visitors discovering this wonderful story in a whole new way through the Welcome Centre’s innovative interpretative displays. The next generation is really embracing Australia’s cultural heritage. All of us play a vital role in preserving and progressing it. That is why the Opera House prioritised the Welcome Centre project as part of our broader Renewal program. We want people to feel even more welcome here at Bennelong Point, a meeting place for thousands of years.”
The Welcome Centre has been jointly funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Your Community Heritage Program, private philanthropy and the Opera House. Further support from Opera House Principal Partner Samsung has enabled the production of interpretative video content that is displayed across 12 digital screens on the northern wall of the Welcome Centre.
As well as showcasing the diversity of the Opera House’s artistic programming, the digital content tells the story of significant moments past and present, culminating in a social media feed curating images through #sydneyoperahouse. The aim is to encourage deeper engagement with the millions of visitors who have made the Opera House one of Australia’s top destinations and most popular hashtags.
Philip Newton, Corporate Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung Electronics Australia Pty Ltd. said:“Technology is at the heart of this new visitor experience. Through our partnership we have been able to integrate Samsung’s latest digital technology into the Welcome Centre – helping to engage visitors while inviting people on the outside to see the magic that happens beneath the Opera House’s famous sails.
As Principal Partner, Samsung will continue to play a vital role in providing the Opera House with its latest technology as part of the broader Renewal program.
At today’s event, the Minister also unveiled a new Australian Heritage Strategy – providing national strategic direction for heritage management across all levels of government and the community for the next ten years.