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Sydney Opera House brought to life through touch with new tactile model unveiled

The Sydney Opera House has been brought to life through touch, with a tactile scale model of the architectural masterpiece unveiled.
Tactile model of Sydney Opera House in foreground with Sydney Opera House in background
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The Sydney Opera House has been brought to life through touch, with a tactile scale model of the architectural masterpiece unveiled.

Staff from our Accessible Information Services team—which helps people and organisations that need to access printed materials in their choice of alternative format—formed part of a group that helped advise on the model from an accessibility perspective. The group also included representatives from Guide Dogs and Vision Australia, in addition to a model maker, a designer and Sydney Opera House staff, providing a range of perspectives.

Scale model from above, showing raised sails of the Opera House and braille labels on each of the four sides describing the different angles such as 'East Facing Botanic Gardens'

NextSense Publications Officer Tristan, who is blind, was asked to review a draft replica model for accessibility, which informed the final design. She provided feedback on the textures used, and how successful it was in conveying the overall shape of the Opera House. Maria, also from our Accessible Information Services team works as a sighted braille transcriber and provided her perspective.

Tristan says that tactile models are important because often people who are blind or have low vision do not get a real sense of what a building looks like.

Models give blind and vision impaired people access to the same information sighted people have, by condensing something large, like the Opera House, down to a size where the whole of it can be perceived by touch.

— Tristan, Publications Officer, NextSense
Tristan standing next to another NextSense staff member with both touching the tactile model

She says that a highlight was getting to touch the model and feel the unique shape of the Opera House. “I’ve heard that it has a distinctive design, but words did not prepare me for what it actually felt like”, she says.

The model will be used for upcoming audio described performances and tours, including a live visual description of the images projected onto the iconic sails for Vivid LIVE 2024.

Created by experienced artisans and clad in bronze, it was gifted by design, engineering, architecture, planning, and advisory services firm Arup in recognition of the Sydney Opera House’s 50th anniversary.

Images credit: Cassandra Hannagan

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