National Physical Laboratory

Building the Sydney Opera House

Work carried out at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the 1960s is featured in an exhibition by Arup about Building the Sydney Opera House, one of a number of global events marking the 40th anniversary of the iconic building.

A wooden model of the Sydney Opera House used for wind tunnel testing at NPL
A wooden model of the Sydney Opera House used for
wind tunnel testing at NPL

NPL was at the forefront of research into industrial aerodynamics throughout the 20th century, an area that covered a wide range of subjects such as the external airflow problems of buildings and the impact of turbulence on bridges. This expertise was used to carry out an investigation on a scale model of the Sydney Opera House to test the wind pressure distribution over its four distinctive shell structures.

A short video and images showing these tests, which were carried out in NPL's open jet wind tunnel, are currently on display in the exhibition, which is on until 25 July 2014 at 8 Fitzroy Street, London W1. This is the headquarters of Arup, the independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists that first came to prominence with the structural design of the Sydney Opera House, and whose more recent projects include the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the 'Bird's Nest', which was designed for use in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The exhibition, curated by Jennifer Greitschus, Arup, and Anne Watson, editor of 'Building a masterpiece: the Sydney Opera House', also includes photography, historical drawings and models. It will display detail from the evolution of the Opera House design, a project which took nearly 16 years to complete from Danish architect Jørn Utzon winning the 1957 competition to its opening in 1973.

Find out more about the Arup exhibition: Building the Sydney Opera House

Watch the video of the NPL wind tunnel tests below (no audio):

Find out more about NPL's wind tunnel research

Last Updated: 6 May 2014
Created: 6 May 2014

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