Australia in the Summer! Focus: Sydney Opera House History

Australia in the Summer!

Yes, there is nothing like skipping out on a cold winter and tooling off to Australia, where it’s summer. We had this great opportunity to do exactly that this past December and January when we went to Sydney, Ayers Rock in the Outback, The Entrance and Jenolan Caves. We’re going to share a bit of that trip with you in some of our upcoming blogs, just to get you thinking about planning a trip Down Under someday…

First focus:  Sydney Opera House and its architectural history…

The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s most recognizable building.  Think of Australia and what pops into your mind first, after kangaroos and koalas?  Surely it is the Sydney Opera House!

Since its completion in 1973 it has attracted worldwide acclaim for its design and construction, not to mention the perfect setting at Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbor.  Any time you see a picture of the iconic building, you immediately think of Sydney, Australia.   It’s like the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben… you just think of the city  immediately.

Sydney Opera House, State Archives, NSW

Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, it took 16 years to build.  Constructed between 1957 and 1973, it was, and still is, a masterpiece of modern architectural design.  The story of these 16 years of building was one of great controversy.  The technical challenge of how to construct the roof sails alone took over four years to solve.  Jorn Utzon envisioned this masterpiece without having resolved all engineering issues before the start.  He had submitted his design entry for this building, and it won.  Then he and his team had to figure out all of the details.   The roofs sails were based on the geometry of the sphere and Utzon envisioned the idea of prefabricated, repeated components or tiles on the roof.

Major Hall Scale, Opera House State Archives, NSW

Jørn Utzon, Architect of the Sydney Opera Hall via

Can you even imagine the creative mind who thought this up?  And then brought it to reality?  Yet the cost overruns and the human element of too many opinions and pressures led to Jorn finally leaving Australia for good, before completion of the building.  He never returned to see its completion.  And yet, happily, his masterpiece did define his career, and it redefined the image of Australia to the world.

Pritzker Prize judge Frank Gehry said when awarding architecture’s highest award to the Opera House’s architect in 2003:  “Jorn Utzon made a building well ahead of its time, far ahead of available technology… a building that changed the image of an entire country.”

Fireworks over Sydney and Harbor Bridge courtesy of Flickr user miquitos

“Ovation”: Courtesy of flickr user Jason Tong 

The sound is absolutely pitch perfect in the performance halls.  There is nothing like going to a show there.  If you visit Sydney, make sure you at least visit the Opera House grounds, even if you can’t make it to a performance.  And take in a ferry ride while in the area.  Well worth the trip!

Jorn Utson most assuredly felt proud of his masterpiece, even if in the end he never did return.  Visiting this iconic building needs to be on every Bucket List!

Sydney Opera House:  “It stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 0th century but in the history of humankind.”  This was the expert evaluation report to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2007.




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