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Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House brought Steensen Varming to Australia and have been involved in its systems design and maintenance since. The original air-conditioning solution best illustrates Steensen Varming’s commitment to aesthetic integrity, developed with Danish architect Jørn Utzon and later Hall, Todd and Littlemore. By utilising Sydney Harbour’s plentiful water to provide cool air, it enabled the iconic silhouette to remain unit-free – a groundbreaking initiative on a world scale and the largest system of its kind. The new lighting masterplan, developed in collaboration with Johnson Pilton Walker and endorsed by Utzon, ensures the Opera House is perceived as intended, not only enhancing the building and its public areas, but also the working environment.


The Opera House attracts 7.4 million visitors a year, contributes more than AUD1 billion to the Australian economy and supports more than 12,000 jobs. The innovative mechanical and hydraulic systems include air-conditioning utilises the harbour water as a heat sink. The reversible heat pump supplies air to 120 fans distributed at 270m3/s through 35km of ducts to 3,000 outlets. It took eight years to build the shells of the Opera House and three years to develop the ceramic cladding. The shells were illuminated at night by just four 1000W lamps on each side. In accordance with the masterplan, the shell lighting now renders the ceramic tiles in their neutral tone, with multiple 150W sources orientated to model the full beauty and curvature of the building’s geometry.