Sydney Opera House opens

After 15 years of construction, the Sydney Opera House is dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II. The $80 million structure, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and funded by the profits of the Opera House Lotteries, was built on Bennelong Point, in Sydney, Australia. Famous for its geometric roof shells, the structure contains several large auditoriums and presents an average of 3,000 events a year to an estimated two million people. The first performance in the complex was the Australian Opera’s production of Sergei Prokofiev’s War and Peace, which was held in the 1,547-seat Opera Theatre. Today, the Opera House remains Sydney’s best-known landmark.

Sydney Opera House

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Sydney Opera House, opera house located on Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), New South Wales, Australia. Its unique use of a series of gleaming white sail-shaped shells as its roof structure makes it one of the most-photographed buildings in the world.

The Sydney Opera House is situated on Bennelong Point (originally called Cattle Point), a promontory on the south side of the harbour just east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was named for Bennelong, one of two Aboriginal people (the other man was named Colebee) who served as liaisons between Australia’s first British settlers and the local population. The small building where Bennelong lived once occupied the site. In 1821 Fort Macquarie was built there (razed 1902). In 1947 the resident conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens, identified the need of Australia’s leading city for a musical facility that would be a home not only to the symphony orchestra but also to opera and chamber music groups. The New South Wales government, agreeing that the city should aspire to recognition as a world cultural capital, gave official approval and in 1954 convened an advisory group, the Opera House Committee, to choose a site. Early the following year the committee recommended Bennelong Point.

In 1956 the state government sponsored an international competition for a design that was to include a building with two halls—one primarily for concerts and other large musical and dance productions and the other for dramatic presentations and smaller musical events. Architects from some 30 countries submitted 233 entries. In January 1957 the judging committee announced the winning entry, that of Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who won with a dramatic design showing a complex of two main halls side by side facing out to the harbour on a large podium. Each hall was topped with a row of sail-shaped interlocking panels that would serve as both roof and wall, to be made of precast concrete.

His winning entry brought Utzon international fame. Construction, however, which began in 1959, posed a variety of problems, many resulting from the innovative nature of the design. The opening of the Opera House was originally planned for Australia Day (January 26) in 1963, but cost overruns and structural engineering difficulties in executing the design troubled the course of the work, which faced many delays. The project grew controversial, and public opinion turned against it for a time. Amid continuing disagreements with the government authorities overseeing the project, Utzon resigned in 1966. Construction continued until September 1973 under the supervision of the structural engineering firm Ove Arup and Partners and three Sydney architects—Peter Hall, David Littlemore, and Lionel Todd.

In 1999 Utzon agreed to return as the building’s architect, overseeing an improvement project. He redesigned the former Reception Hall, and it was reopened in 2004 as the Utzon Room. It has an eastern view of Sydney Harbour and is used for receptions, seminars and other meetings, and chamber music performances. Two years later a new colonnade was completed, marking the first alteration to the Opera House’s exterior since 1973.

The Opera House is Sydney’s best-known landmark. It is a multipurpose performing arts facility whose largest venue, the 2,679-seat Concert Hall, is host to symphony concerts, choir performances, and popular music shows. Opera and dance performances, including ballet, take place in the Opera Theatre (renamed the Joan Sutherland Theatre in 2012 as a tribute to the celebrated Australian operatic soprano), which seats just over 1,500. There are also three theatres of different sizes and configurations for stage plays, film screenings, and smaller musical performances. The Forecourt, on the southeastern end of the complex, is used for outdoor performances. The building also houses restaurants and a professional recording studio. In 2007 the Opera House was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

About the Sydney Opera House

Designs for most major public sector architectural projects are often determined by a competition — similar to a casting call, a tryout, or a job interview. Jørn Utzon had just entered an anonymous competition for an opera house to be built in Australia on a point of land jutting into Sydney harbor. Out of some 230 entries from over thirty countries, Utzon's concept was selected. Interestingly, the Sydney Opera House drawings are public records held in the archives of the New South Wales government.

The exterior construction materials included preccast rib segments "rising to a ridge beam" and a concrete pedestal "clad in earth-toned, reconstituted granite panels." The design was for shells to be clad with glazed off-white tiles. Utzon called this process of construction "additive architecture," where prefabricated elements were joined onsite to create a whole.

Professor Kenneth Frampton suggests this building block approach of construction comes from the stepped methods found in Chinese architecture instead of the Western tradition of using trusses. Combining "prefabricated components in a structural assembly in such a way as to achieve a unified form that while incremental is at once flexible, economic and organic," writes Frampton. " We can already see this principle at work in the tower-crane assembly of the segmental pre-cast concrete ribs of the shell roofs of the Sydney Opera House, wherein coffered, tile-faced units of up to ten tons in weight were hauled into position and sequentially secured to each other, some two hundred feet in the air."

The construction of the Sydney Opera House

Although there were no working drawings or specifications, the works were ordered to begin in 1958, immediately running into delays from the start as a result. The main problem was how to distribute the weight of the shell-shaped roof and, to resolve this problem, Utzon turned to an engineering company for help and even an early computer. According to one anecdote, the solution came while the architect was peeling an orange, when he realised that the shells could be obtained by carving them from a sphere.

This did not manage to speed up the works, however, which slowed down even further in 1965, when the Conservative, Robert Askin, was elected premier. Davis Hughes was appointed as the new government’s Minister of Infrastructure but he seemed to take no interest in architecture. Controls over Utzon’s works multiplied, as did the restrictions, to the point that funds were suspended: no longer able to pay his staff, Utzon resigned in 1966.

At that time, the exterior structure of the building had been completed but most of the interior had yet to be decided. In any event, construction was completed in 1973, the work of a team of architects made up of Peter Hall, Lionel Todd, David Littlemore and Ted Farmer. It was only in 1999 that Utzon, who had meanwhile become internationally famous, agreed to be involved in upgrading the interior space and was later awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2003, the greatest honour for an architect.

Eternal history

Opera, classical music, fine dining, incredible architecture, and harbour views. This is what most people might recall when asked to reflect on their experiences at the Sydney Opera House.

Since its opening in 1973 the Opera House has carried a deeper legacy, one that embraces, challenges and celebrates Australian culture. 

But what of Australia’s First Peoples and First Nations culture? How does a cultural institution like the Opera House celebrate First Nations work, or more specifically works for the stage? Has it always done so?

For First Nations people, their stories have featured strongly and consistently on Australian stages since the first plays written and commercially produced during the 1960s and 1970s. They focused on individual and family experiences, their life, and history.

A brief history of First Nations theatre

In New South Wales, writers like Kevin Gilbert made their mark with The Cherry Pickers in 1968. Robert Merritt’s The Cake Man was performed by the Black Theatre Redfern in 1975, and Gerry Bostock’s Here Comes the N***** in 1976.

From Western Australia, it was with Noongar writer Jack Davis’ First Born TrilogyKullark (1979), The Dreamers (1982), and No Sugar (1985). 

Deborah Mailman in Sydney Theatre Company’s The 7 Stages of Grieving, 2002.  Photo: Tracey Schramm

By the 1990s and 2000s there were a number of young women performers embracing an autobiographic form, including Noongar writer and performer Ningali Lawford with her one woman show Ningali (1994) (the Sydney Opera House’s original 2019 production Natives Go Wild is dedicated to Ningali Lawford).

In Queensland, a young Deborah Mailman debuted her work The 7 Stages of Grieving in 1996. It was co-authored by Wesley Enoch, who is now the current Artistic Director at Sydney Festival, and will be presented again in 2020 by Sydney Theatre Company. In New South Wales, the attention was on Leah Purcell and her 1997 one-woman show Box the Pony, a semi-autobiographical story about a young diva in rural Queensland.

The cast of Sydney Theatre Company’s The Sunshine Club, 2000.  Photo: Tracey Schramm

First Nations artists and companies like Nindethana in Melbourne, Kooemba Jdarra in Brisbane and the Black Theatre in NSW developed and presented most of these works. When it came to reaching a broader audience base for these stories many made their way to the Opera House.

When and how they came to be presented there highlights a critical turning point in First Nations programming at the House. The work that followed contributes to this legacy. 

Deborah Mailman in Sydney Theatre Company’s The 7 Stages of Grieving, 2002.  Photo: Tracey Schramm

Deborah Mailman in Sydney Theatre Company’s The 7 Stages of Grieving, 2002.  Photo: Tracey Schramm

The cast of Sydney Theatre Company’s The Sunshine Club, 2000.  Photo: Tracey Schramm

The cast of Sydney Theatre Company’s The Sunshine Club, 2000.  Photo: Tracey Schramm

Cradle of Hercules programme, March 1974

Cradle of Hercules programme, March 1974

�original Artists Season’ at the Sydney Opera House, 1985. Photo: Sydney Opera House archives

�original Artists Season’ at the Sydney Opera House, 1985. Photo: Sydney Opera House archives

‘The Dreamers’ starring Jack Charles, 1983. Image: Don McMurdo

‘The Dreamers’ starring Jack Charles, 1983. Image: Don McMurdo

The fight to document history

In looking at the history of engagement with First Nations work at the House, it’s hard to get a real sense of the magnitude and significance of work. The documented history is a minefield to navigate.

Then there is the issue of what makes a work First Nations𠅊ustralia’s live performing arts database AusStage has over six thousand recorded entries of Opera House events and productions.

�original Artists Season’ at the Sydney Opera House, 1985. Photo: Sydney Opera House archives

According to the site, the first work to include First Nations casting was in March 1974, just one year after its opening, with The Cradle of Hercules in the Playhouse.

The Opera House archives show actors Jack Charles, Silvia Doolan, Alanna Coorey and Zac Martin appeared in the production, alongside a young Yolngu dancer named David Gulpilil—three years after he starred in the Cannes-nominated film Walkabout.

History, or the ideal eternal history, as Italian political philosopher Giambattista Vico coined, is the perfect course through which all nations pass.

‘The Dreamers’ starring Jack Charles, 1983. Image: Don McMurdo

In practice, however, each nation travels through history slightly differently. The archive merely reflects current state interests. Recorded histories are therefore suspect at best.

Of interest to me is not just the recorded histories, but the experiences of those who were there and how these accounts might shed light on the history of First Nations programming at the House.

It was to this end that I invited Rhoda Roberts AO, Head of First Nations Programming at Sydney Opera House, to share her stories. She had been inextricably linked to the history of First Nations work at the House. I would cross-reference her stories with the recorded histories.

“The House had always supported Aboriginal artists,” she told me, 𠇋ut it was never in a strategic or consistent manner”.

&aposNational Aboriginal Day&apos programme 1978

&aposNational Aboriginal Week&apos programme 1979

&aposNational Aboriginal Day&apos programme 1978

&aposNational Aboriginal Week&apos programme 1979

Building a legacy 

In recalling her first memory of attending an event at the House, Roberts couldn’t determine an exact date.

“I remember going to NAIDOC Week, or �original Week’ as it was called then,” she said. “It was mainly country and western music with Wilma Reading, Jimmy Little and Candy Williams—the guys that were around in the 70s and 80s. They would hold those concerts every year.”

As documented in the Opera House archives, Aboriginal Week took place in July 1978 and The Country Outcasts, Urban Island Dancers, and The Waratahs performed. Some years later in the late 80s and early 90s, when Rhoda was involved with the Aboriginal National Theatre Trust (ANTT) producing Aboriginal works with leading creatives, she came in contact with Sue Nattrass, then serving as a Trustee of the Sydney Opera House.

According to Roberts, Nattrass was a big supporter of this type of programming. She encouraged Rhoda to become firmly entrenched in First Nations programming at the House. 

In the archives the program included a ‘Wimins’ Business Solo Series with productions of The 7 Stages of Grieving by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, Box the Pony by Leah Purcell, Ningali by Ningali Jose Lawford, and White Baptist Abba Fan with Deb Cheetham.

There were also international guests and productions, among them: Nga Pou Wahine by Maori artists Briar Grace Smith and Rachel Hose More Feathers than Beads by Rappahannock nation artist Murielle Borst and works by Cree/Saulteaux performance maker Margot Kane.

In 2012 Rhoda took the reins of the festival in her new role as Head of Aboriginal Programming, and introduced a more diverse range of Aboriginal artist presentations that reflected the success of the 1997 Festival of the Dreaming program.

This planted the roots for Message Sticks, a program in 2013 that brought together dance, music and public discussions on First Nations issues. Works featured during the festival include Woollarawarre Bennelong of the Wangal, the play Wulamanayuwi & the Seven Papanui by Jason De Santis, the Bennelong Memorial Address by Stan Grant, the historic dance showcase Dancestry, the Yolngu Weavers, and Ngambala Niji.

Getting programming out of the House and onto the Forecourt was a key component of her strategy, realised for the first time in 2014 with Homeground, a landmark celebration of First Nations art and culture. At its epicentre was Dance Rites, a national First Nations dance competition spanning generations, nations, and clans, which in 2018 became its own headline event.

Opera House Architecture – The Break

A change of government in 1965 dramatically changed Sydney Opera House history. It proved disastrous for Utzon personally and for his vision as well. Today’s disappointing interiors are a direct result, as were the almost immediate need for upgrades.

The Askin government that came to power in May 1965 was one of the more corrupt governments that New South Wales has produced. Jorn Utzon lacked the experience and political skills to counter the brutal realities of political power, and its abuse.

Their methods were crude, simple and they worked. On various pretexts, Davis Hughes, the minister in charge, simply refused to pay Utzon. Who in turn couldn’t pay his staff, his contractors or his taxes.

There is some suggestion that, when he finally resigned and left Australia in early 1966, Jorn Utzon may have thought that Askin and Hughes would be forced to recall him to get the project completed to his design.

Sydney Opera House history:
Unsuccessful rallies

They didn’t, in spite of petitions, rallies and support from leading Australian architects. Instead the government appointed new architects who essentially redesigned the rest of the project.

When Jorn Utzon left Australia, the exterior construction of the Sydney Opera House was complete in its essentials, with mainly the tile cladding left to be completed. The exterior therefore remained intact, but the newly appointed team made significant changes to his designs for the interior.

These changes included reversing the main performance spaces.

The originally planned opera theatre became the concert hall and opera was relegated to the smaller theatre. This, as Dame Joan Sutherland once famously remarked, had a ‘pocket handkerchief of a stage’ and an orchestra pit that is a safety hazard to the hearing of the musicians.

Not a surprise in Sydney Opera House history, the total cost of the building – A$18.4 million when Jorn Utzon left Australia with the podium and exteriors almost done – blew out to A$102 million by the time the interiors were completed. By far the greatest expenditure was made by the architectural team that replaced Utzon.

Models that Utzon had made for the interiors also somehow disappeared. Some, like the one at the top of the page, subsequently re-surfaced. But many are still missing.

The Sydney Opera House was finally opened by the Queen in 1973. Utzon was not invited and his name was not mentioned at the ceremony. He never re-visited Australia.
Subsequent Sydney Opera House History

It’s been a long and rocky road for one of the world’s most famous buildings, and it’s not home yet.

Technological advances demand further modification of the building if audiences are to receive state of the art acoustics and performances. And the ongoing health and safety of musicians means extension of the Joan Sutherland Theatre’s orchestra pit is urgently required.

Recent Opera House history includes a carpark built under the Botanical Gardens in 1993 and the forecourt refurbishment in 1998. There have been ongoing upgrades to both the interior and exterior.

The most recent significant change was the very popular opening up of the western side of the podium in 2006. This project was led by Jorn Utzon. He also wrote new specifications for the foyer’s interiors. These provide visitors with the coherent experience lacking in the main upstairs areas.

Sydney Opera House history:
The re-designed and renamed Utzon Room

Refurbishment and remedial work, much of it to undo the problems caused by the internal modifications, now dwarfs the original costs.

Over A$400 million has been spent or budgeted so far, yet today, as in the past, money and politics still bedevil all attempts at a comprehensive solution.

The cost of addressing the long-standing issues with the Joan Sutherland Theatre was estimated at $1 billion in 2009. The problems included the cramped orchestra pit, lack of space in the wings, aging stage machinery and other necessary upgrades.

That proposal, for a complete overhaul, foundered when the Australian federal government declined to support New South Wales in the financing of the work. The latest plan is to close the Joan Sutherland Theatre for upgrade in 2017.

Sydney Opera House Facts and Figures –

1. History of Sydney opera house is saturated with great performances, but this one blew everyone’s mind – In 1960, Paul Robeson climbed the scaffolding to sing Old Man River to the construction workers, becoming the first artist to perform at the opera house. One hell of a crazy act.

2. The colored glass used in the building was made to order by Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel in France – the shade is unique. There was 6,223 sq m of glass in the original building.

3. Jørn Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2003. Four generations of his family have been architects – his father Aage, his son Jan and Jan’s son Jeppe and daughter Kickan.

It’s roof is clad in 1,056,006 roof tiles which cover approximately 1.62ha.

4. Danish architect Jørn Utzon beat 232 other designers to win the competition to design the opera house. The competition was launched in 1955 and the winner was announced in 1957. His cash prize was £5,000.

5. Utzon moved his practice to Sydney in 1963 but left the project in 1966 after a change in government. Significant changes were made to the interior designs after his departure and he was not invited to the opening.

In 1999 he was re-appointed as a design consultant. Only one room in the building has a 100% Utzon-designed interior.

Sydney Opera House auditorium seating

6. It was one of the first projects to use computerized structural analysis and the design team went through at least 12 iterations for the concrete shells of the building. It is still unclear whether it was Utzon or engineer Ove Arup who came up with the final solution.

7. The highest point of the roof reached 67 meters above sea level – equivalent to the height of a 22-story building.

8. The concrete ceiling beams are made in three different shapes – T, Y and U – according to the levels of stress placed on them. This eliminates the need for supporting columns.

9. Eight Boeing 747s could sit wing to wing on the opera house site – the building footprint is 1.75ha but the site is 5.8ha.

10. More than 10,000 construction workers were involved in building the opera house.

11. The roof is clad in 1,056,006 roof tiles which cover approximately 1.62ha.

12. Many famous construction companies like the Arups Structural Engineering, Hornibrook and Rider Hunt were involved in the construction of the Sydney Opera House.

13. It was formally opened on October 20, 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II – it took 14 years from competition to completion.

Australia’s Sydney Opera House interior

14. One of the most astonishing Sydney Opera House Facts is that it was originally estimated to cost $7 million but ended up costing $102 million.

This makes me feel good, people who were worse than me at cost estimation existed.

15. Sydney Opera House is one of the only buildings in the world to have had an opera written about it – Alan John and Dennis Watkins’ The Eighth Wonder.

16. The famous ‘sails’ of the building were constructed using three specially made tower cranes from France that cost $100,000 each.

17. When the work started on Sydney Opera House in 1959 more than 10,000 workers were hired for construction.

18. The building site’s total area is 5.798 hectares and its footprint is 1.75 hectares, which means eight Boeing 747’s could sit wing to wing on this site.

19. The Studio is a licensed venue and patrons can take alcohol into the theater. Calls for a visit!

20. There are 1,056,006 roof tiles covering an area of approximately 1.62 hectares that sit over the structure. They were made by a Swedish tile company,

21. The concrete ceiling beams change shape as they rise from a T shape to a Y and then a U shape, depending on where the level of stress is greatest. These folded beams replace the need for columns to support the weight of the structure.

Sydney Opera House during construction

22.Every year ,all the light bulbs in the house are changed without any failure.

23. The site was demolished several times due to design failures.

24. The construction took more than 15 complete years

25.Biggest irony and fact of sydney opera house of all time,the queen for which it was build has visited the place not more than 4 times.

26. This great, great, great post on Sydney opera house facts was written by Ammar Ali DM, and this is one special fact which you won’t find on any other website.

These were some of the facts about one of the most recognized architectural sites of the world, I hope you liked it Please share our post

When Did the Sydney Opera House Open? Who Opened the Sydney Opera House?

The rich Australian culture got a boost on 22th October 1973, the day that marked the opening of one of the most excellent works of architecture in the 20th century.

This was the day an icon was born, and the start of Sydney’s rich history of art performances.

After 14 years of challenging construction, the Sydney Opera House was finally opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth II declares the Sydney Opera House officially open on October 23, 1973. (Source:

Before the 20th October 1973 opening ceremony, significant preparations were going on in readiness for the big day. On 19th October, the eve of the opening ceremony, Sir Warwick Fairfax and Lady Mary hosted the Opera House Opening Ball.

Sir Warwick was a wealthy media proprietor whereas Lady Mary was his third wife, a Polish-born Australian philanthropist. The ceremony was hosted at their Fairwater home, whose lawns stretch down to the Seven Shillings Beach.

At least one thousand guests attended the eve of the opening ceremony, a party that lasted until the early hours of 20th October. The organizers of the opening ceremony code-named the much awaited day as “Operation O”.

“Operation O” was triumphant. When the Queen cut the ribbons to open the Sydney Opera House officially, everyone took part in celebrating the huge achievement.

The opening ceremony was a magnificent crescendo of color, sound, and light. The event was highlighted by at least 300 top art performers from Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji among other south-sea islands.

The ceremony went on until midnight. After frustrating delays, huge expenses, and prolonged controversy, Sydney finally had a spectacular architecture to show the world.

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is one of the 20th century&rsquos most iconic buildings. It broke new ground for design and engineering around the world.

Since its opening in 1973 it has become a symbol the world immediately associates with Sydney and Australia.

The story of the Opera House is a drama that for more than 15 years grabbed national headlines and pitted the artistic vision of the architect Jorn Utzon against the politics and budgets of the New South Wales Government and the limits of architecture and construction.

Architect Frank Gehry, 2008:

Utzon made a building well ahead of its time, far ahead of available technology, and he persevered through extraordinary malicious criticism to a building that changed the image of an entire country. It is the first time in our lifetime that such an epic piece of architecture gained such universal presence.


Sydney grew from 500,000 to 1.5 million people during the first half of the 20th century, but the city&rsquos cultural life was thought to have lagged behind its population growth.

In 1947 the renowned British conductor Eugene Goossens was appointed to lead the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. A few years later, he publicly called for a world-class concert hall:

We must have an Opera house within five years. Sydney is taking its place among the world&rsquos major symphonic groups. A fine hall is essential if the public is to hear the orchestra at its best.

In 1954 Goossens met with New South Wales Premier Joseph Cahill and the two agreed that Sydney needed a major performance venue. For 1950s Australia, it was a bold and far sighted decision.

A year later, the premier announced an international competition to design an opera house to be built at Bennelong Point, then occupied by a tram depot.

There is no record of the evaluation process but legend has it that the respected American architect Eero Saarinen arrived after the three other members of the judging panel had shortlisted designs. Saarinen was underwhelmed by their choices and looking through the rejected plans came across Jorn Utzon&rsquos &ndash design number 218.

Saarinen championed the entry and convinced the panel that this was the winning submission. In January 1957 Premier Cahill announced Utzon&rsquos design as the winner and in July committed $7 million to the Opera House&rsquos construction with a completion date of December 1963.

Jorn Utzon

Utzon was a 38-year-old Danish architect who had worked with a number of famous Scandinavian designers and was particularly interested in organic architecture, a style that manipulated and evoked natural forms. He had won a series of architectural competitions in Denmark, but had yet to design a building outside his home country.

Utzon&rsquos proposal was a striking series of nestled white roofs that appeared to float above a massive podium structure inspired by Mayan temples.

It fitted with Utzon&rsquos belief that architecture should have a transcendent quality. As he said, 'The opera house should take people from their daily routine into a world of fantasy, a world they can share with the musicians and actors.'

Building the unbuildable

Utzon&rsquos drawings had not been properly assessed by engineers before submission so over the next five years considerable assessment and remodellings went back and forth between Utzon, the consulting engineers Ove Arup and Partners and the Sydney Opera House Executive Committee.

The architecture was groundbreaking and the engineering to produce the gracefully floating roofs was at the edge of the possible. With each new design the cost increased and the completion date moved. In the words of Sir Ove Arup, constructing it was 'an adventure into the unknown'.

The Opera House was built in three phases. Firstly, the foundation and the substantial podium. Secondly, the roof shells. Lastly, the interiors. By 1963 the foundation and podium had been completed and construction of the roof shells began.

The shells were the most challenging aspect of the build. The Arup engineers had spent four years trying to create a roof design that was replicable between the 10 separate shells and could therefore be prefabricated on site.

Eventually Utzon came up with a deceptively simple answer: the curvature of each individual roof shell could be extracted from a single sphere. He demonstrated this by cutting four sail-like segments from the surface of an orange, each of which could be a different size and shape but all curving in precisely the same way.

This solution allowed ribs of varying size to be formed from sections cast in a common mould, then arranged to create the different size shells. This became known as the &lsquospherical solution&rsquo and eventually 2194 pre-cast concrete sections each weighing 15 tons were formed on site to create the flowing roofline people recognise today.

At about this time Utzon and his family moved to Australia. However, the projected budget had now reached $35 million, already five times the original estimate with a completion date of December 1965.


Eventually the mounting costs and delays became a public concern and a political issue. In the May 1965 state election, after 24 years in power, the Labor Party was defeated by theLiberal/Country Party coalition. The leader of the Country Party, Davis Hughes, became Minister for Public Works.

Hughes refused to accept what he considered was Utzon&rsquos chaotic approach to managing the Opera House project and eventually cut off funding, so Utzon was unable to pay his own staff.

On 28 February 1966 Utzon met with the minister to discuss the $103,000 he was owed. Hughes would not release the funds and Utzon was forced to offer his resignation. The minister immediately accepted it.

Over the next few days there were protests on Sydney&rsquos streets as architects, artists and unionists called for Utzon&rsquos return. Attempts were made to broker an agreement between the architect and the government but to no avail and Utzon left Sydney with his family on 28 April never to return to the city or see his completed masterpiece.


In the wake of the resignation, the government appointed a new panel of experts under Ggvernment architect Ted Farmer to complete the Opera House. The project was now onto stage three, the interiors and crucial acoustic design.

In December 1966 the panel submitted a complete &lsquoReview of Program&rsquo and in the process significantly altered Utzon&rsquos interior designs. Again work proceeded slowly as the build pushed the envelope of engineering possibility.

Finally, the Sydney Opera House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 20 October 1973. It was 10 years overdue and, at $102 million, 14 times the original budget.

However, Australia was now home to one of the greatest buildings of the 20th century &ndash an instantly recognisable piece of exhilarating architecture that remains a credit to this country and one with which Sydney and Australia are instantly associated.

Watch the video: The Sydney Opera House construction story 1958 - 1973 Australia - BBC News - 14th July 2018 (January 2022).