The Sydney Opera House may, as part of inspection and conservation efforts, be having its foundations checked by robots within five years, a new study plan from Arup and University of Sydney reveals. The new conservation methods are part of a wider renovation study by the partners, funded through The Getty Foundation.
The Sydney Opera House, situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, is one of the most iconic buildings of the modern age. The structure, devised by Architect Jørn Utzon, first opened to the public in 1973, and, in last year was host to more than 1,900 live events and visited by 1.45 million people. The construction process, which begun in 1959, was in part overseen by Ove Arup & Partners, a subsidiary of Arup. The firm was recognised for its work, receiving the Annual Award for Excellence in 1972 from the Association of Consulting Engineers.
Since the beginning of construction, Arup has worked on more than 300 projects related to consulting and engineering work for the Sydney Opera House. The firm’s long history with the iconic building, which has involved continued technical input to inspections, has accumulated into a trove of archival material. The firm has formalised the accrued knowledge into the project’s Repository of Knowledge, which supports generations of engineering staff working on the building.
Last week The Getty Foundation, one of the world’s largest philanthropic organisations in the cultural sector, revealed that it had selected the Sydney Opera House as one of the first ten recipients of its 'Keeping It Modern project' – an initiative that provides financial support to conservation work on iconic buildings.
For the project, Arup and the University of Sydney are to collaborate with the Sydney Opera House, launching a “holistic conservation study, drawing on historical knowledge and potential future technology.” Through the study an improved knowledge management scheme will be developed, allowing for more efficient inspections as well as improved conservation outcomes. New techniques to check concrete, through microphone and thermal and force sensors, will be carried out by “robots in as soon as five years’ time.”
Marianne Foley, Principal, Arup in Australasia, says, “We have been working on the Sydney Opera House for almost 60 years, on over 300 individual projects. In our work, we draw on this historical understanding regularly. Our accumulated knowledge is an invaluable resource not only for the Concrete Conservation Strategy, but for the future operation and protection of our nation’s most significant cultural asset.”