Sydney Opera House’s new rebranding will attempt to solve a problem unique to the architecture.
Since it’s construction was completed back in 1973, the Sydney Opera House has become one of the world’s most iconic buildings. Over 7 million people a year take a photo in front of the building, but only a small fraction of those people actually walk through the doors for a tour. although the Sydney Opera House is a popular arts destination, with over 1 million tourists a year, it doesn’t have much of an identity that it can call its own, independent of the building’s facade.
The Sydney Opera House was meant to be seen as one with its exterior; you supposed to want to go in as much as you wanted to walk around it. Now, Interbrand Australia has created a new identity for the Sydney Opera House that the CEO Cooney hopes will finally succeed in integrating the organisation’s iconic exterior with the vibrant arts.
Inspired by geometry and shadow of the building’s exterior, Interbrand’s new logo encompasses a custom typeface to accompany its old logo (an abstract, geometric representation of the Opera House), as well as a visual language that references the building’s iconic architecture. “At the heart of it, we wanted to help the Sydney Opera House reassert its purpose,”.”To be a source of inspiration within a building, not just a building.” says Cooney.
It’s a problem unique to the architecture, of which the Sydney Opera House designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon in 1957. Everyone wants an famous building. But what happens when your building is just too famous? How do you refocus attention when the building is viewed as more important than the cultural institution it was designed to promote?
Interbrand’s approach was simple, Cooney said it’s important to understand the history of the Sydney Opera House. It was commissioned at a time when Australia, regarded as a colony, had just stepped onto the world stage as one of the Allied victors of World War II. “Up until then, people had very simple ideas about what Australia was.”. “But Joseph Cahill, the premier of New South Wales, understood that not only is public infrastructure important to the building of a nation, but so was building an infrastructure of the arts. So he put out the task to make an arts center.” This arts center, became the Sydney Opera House. “The project was a crucial part of Australia working out who we wanted to be, and how the world saw us.”
In other words, the Sydney Opera House original purpose was to shift perspectives. Shifting perspectives is also the goal (and even the name!) of the Sydney Opera House’s new identity. “We looked to the structure’s details for inspiration.” “Most of the shapes we use are inspired by the building itself, which is both beautiful in its magnitude, and beautiful in miniature.” Cooney says.
The new identity includes a new custom designed typeface named Utzon. Designed by Swiss typographer Laurenz Brunner, Utzon’s letters are beveled so that any given glyph is made up of multiple slopes and angles. When animated with a light source, these bevels create dramatic shadow patterns, which evoke the Sydney Opera House when it’s at sundown. And these letters don’t just exist as vectors: they have been designed to be real-world objects, so that they can be used as physical signage, and illuminated by real light sources.
Another element of the identity are the colourful new sails used to tie together the posters, commercials, and other materials. The sails are the subtle chevron pattern of the Sydney Opera House’s exterior, but unlike Utzon’s shells, they aren’t just monochromatic: They also are vibrantly coloured with shades plucked from the famous tapestries which hang on the inside of the building. It’s another example of how Interbrand Australia is trying to unite what goes on inside the Sydney Opera House. The sails look great in static form (for example, as the background pattern on a poster for an upcoming program), but like everything about the new identity, also lend themselves to motion. “When you walk around the building, it feels like it moves,” explains Cooney. “We wanted our work to have the same effect.”
It’s a little too early to tell if the Opera house’s new identity will help improve the attendance: It only started rolling out last December in 2015. But Interbrand Australia has succeeded in what it set out to do: The new identity looks native to the place. When Utzon sat down at his desk to draft the original design of the Sydney Opera House, he didn’t simultaneously create an integrated brand identity for the organisation his arts centre would house. But now, thanks to Interbrand Australia, it looks like he did.
All Images: courtesy Interbrand Australia