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Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House Turns 45

Australia Architecture News - Oct 22, 2018 - 02:05   8261 views

Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House Turns 45

On Saturday, 20th October, it was the 45th anniversary of one of the world’s most iconic buildings: the Sydney Opera House. Designed by Danish Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jorn Utzon, the building was designed as the result of a UIA-endorsed competition in 1956, the Sydney Opera House has since become the youngest UNESCO World Heritage Site and today plays host to 11 million visitors a year. The building was completed on October 20, 1973. 

Constructed by about 10, 000 workers from 90 different countries, it is a building that epitomises diversity. Now at the mid-point of its 10-year renewal programme, the Opera House has achieved accessibility for all and a 75% cut in power consumption, according to the UIA. 

On this occasion, the UIA announced that the organization will pay tribute to the Sydney Opera House by publishing interviews with personalities close to this icon of modern architecture.

"The Sydney Opera House is an architectural masterpiece because it was just right for its harbour setting, its globally recognisable sails and iconic profile and it was so different from anything being produced at the time in 1960s Sydney," said Clover Moore, Lord Mayor Of Sydney.  

Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House Turns 45

Image © Jozef Vissel

"The Opera House is the symbol of modern Australia. I think it summarizes the bold, daring, can-do approach of Australians. It has changed the face of the nation. As stated in our UNESCO World Heritage status, it is quite simply a work of human genius," said Louise Herron, CEO of Sydney Opera House.

Jørn Utzon was a relatively unknown 38 year old Dane in January 1957 when his entry was announced winner of the international competition to design a ‘national opera house’ for Sydney’s Bennelong Point. His vision for a sculptural, curved building on the Harbour broke radically with the cube and rectangular shapes of modernist architecture. The building transformed his career and, in turn, transformed the image of an entire nation. 

In 1956 the New South Wales Premier, The Hon. Joe Cahill, announced an international competition for the design of an opera house for Sydney which attracted more than 200 entries from around the world. After having won a number of smaller architectural competitions, Utzon submitted his vision for the Sydney Opera House.

Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House Turns 45

Image © Jozef Vissel

"His competition entry contained schematic designs, clearly explaining the concept for the building but not how it would be built. The challenge of constructing the concrete shells that form the roof would confound the building’s engineers for years. It was Utzon who eventually struck upon a ‘spherical solution’ to craft the shells from the surface of an imaginary sphere." 

"This spherical solution elevated the architecture beyond a mere style – in this case that of shells – into a more permanent idea, one inherent in the universal geometry of the sphere. It was also a timeless expression of the fusion between design and engineering."

"Utzon has created a building that not only houses and presents the performing arts, but is a sculptural and architectural performance in its own right. It is now the responsibility of all those involved in the Opera House to nurture and safeguard Utzon’s design for generations to come," said Alan Croker, Sydney Opera House Heritage Architect. 

Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House Turns 45

Image © Jozef Vissel

Construction of the Sydney Opera House began on 2 March 1959 with Utzon travelling frequently to Australia and eventually moving his family to Sydney. Although Utzon had spectacular plans for the interior of the completed shells he was unable to realise this part of his design. In 1965 the Minster of Works, Davis Hughes, began questioning Utzon's designs, schedules and cost estimates. He eventually stopped payments to Utzon who was forced to withdraw as chief architect in February 1966.

His resignation triggered protests and marches through the streets of Sydney demanding Utzon be reinstated as architect, but to no avail. In April 1966 another architect, Peter Hall, was appointed to design the Opera House’s interiors and Utzon and his family left Australia shortly after. The architect never returned to Sydney to see his masterpiece completed.

Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House Turns 45

Image © Jozef Vissel

Top image courtesy of Wikipedia

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