We can now officially reveal that the Göteborg Opera has its own Phantom who sneaks around in the basement and attic at odd times taking care of strange tasks. We couldn’t possibly say whether he sings while he works – but after an exciting day at the opera house, Cadcraft Magazine can at least confirm that he has a beautiful baritone speaking voice.
However, unlike the classic model, this phantom does not shy away from daylight and is highly visible in the opera house during normal business hours. He is called Håkan Jönsson and his real title is chief engineer. He is responsible for ensuring that all the super-modern machinery used on and around the opera house’s different stages and sets is up-to-date and working as it should. A lot of responsibility at an opera house that aims to be the most interesting in Europe, both technically and artistically.
Constant activity in the inventor’s workshop
Backstage at the Göteborg Opera, there is an entire inventor’s workshop where all kinds of skills are represented. Here there is a constant flurry of activity. With deadlines set in stone, new sets need to be built and machinery has to be maintained and upgraded.
The summer, when most people are lounging in a hammock, is a particularly hectic time for Håkan Jönsson and his team. This is when there is a time window of six weeks where no performances are scheduled. It is only during this period that major machinery maintenance and upgrades can be carried out. There is a long to-do list – and getting everything done in such a short time demands a lot from everyone involved.
“We have to be extremely efficient in all our design work and we seldom manage to put all the details and instructions that are needed in our drawings,” says Håkan Jönsson, deftly superimposing a 3D model onto a set design for the Swedish version of Chess using his iPad.
“This previously led to a lot of improvisation and on-site solutions from the guys in the workshops who had to do the building work, but now that everyone can download our 3D models from the cloud, we’re seeing a positive change.”
3D models for all!
The cloud-based solution came into being after a creative brainstorming session with Cadcraft. Håkan Jönsson realised that it was high time to test a solution at the cutting edge of technology. Above all, he saw the benefits of relinquishing the large, stationary design computers and sharing 3D models from the Inventor package directly with workshop employees. However, as usual in this frenetic workplace, there was no time for gradual implementation.
“We did two live projects straight off during the summer,” he says.
“And although we’ve not really had time to evaluate everything yet, we were impressed with the results. We gained a much greater understanding straight away. People would gather around the tablets, look at things and ponder over them. We suddenly saw carpenters, electricians and welders working with iPads next to them; the common goal became very clear and everyone understood what had to be done without requiring extensive instructions. Just as well, really,” muses Håkan Jönsson as an afterthought.
The backstage upgrades during the summer were extensive – among other things, new downstage and mid-stage winches with associated machinery needed to be integrated with the existing machines. During a stressful first week, they also discovered that this job would involve moving a number of electrical systems, something which they had not planned for and which resulted in additional time pressure.
Inventor model as IKEA drawing
A vital piece of machinery also needed to be built for the autumn production of Chess: a remote-controlled podium, “the puck” that the chess players slide forwards on during some of the central scenes of the production – in itself a highly innovative invention that builds on technology from Permobil, with some creative additions from the opera houseֹ’s skilled designers and mechanics.
Håkan Jönsson comments dryly that what they achieved during the summer was “something quite out of the ordinary”. But because of the combination of hard work, commitment and cloud-based solutions, everything worked out – and the result is encouraging:
“Having access to a 3D model that you can spin round and flip onto its side using your iPad is a bit like having an advanced version of an IKEA drawing in your hand where you yourself can work out the quickest and smartest way to achieve your aim. Given the slight panic we all felt at the beginning of the summer, this was a blessing that allowed us to achieve our aim very efficiently,” he says.
“There’s also a completely new dialogue between us in the design team and the workshop staff, who are able to suggest smart shortcuts and solutions. The entire work group now has a calmer, more creative working environment and is even more committed.”
“But there are still a few wrinkles to iron out,” says Håkan Jönsson. Access to the cloud is something that you quickly get used to and depend on, and they have not always been entirely satisfied with the capacity at the Göteborg Opera.
“We sometimes have trouble working with models locally. We’re currently trying to determine the reasons for this. It might be teething problems with the solution, or a licence issue.
But they’re just minor details we have to deal with – for the most part we’re very pleased and keen to carry on with these solutions,” he says.
Summer work popular
“Even though the hardest work period for the Göteborg Opera’s technical team is at an inconvenient time of year, people like working then,” says Håkan Jönsson. And the tablets are here to stay:
“The combination of the project’s complexity, coherence and technicality draws people in, and many employees put off their holidays to get involved during the hectic summer period. The sense of a shared workplace leads to good collaboration and a great atmosphere – and the iPads and cloud have also contributed to this,” he says.