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Man Made Marvel - The Sydney Opera House

Updated on January 8, 2010

The Sydney Opera House is located in Sydney, Australia. Situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, close to the older and equally famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. The building and its surroundings form a globally recognised and iconic Australian image.

Designed by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon, Sydney Opera House is one of the most distinctive and famous 20th century buildings, and one of the most prestigious performing arts venues in the world.

As well as many ballet, musical and theatre productions, the Opera House is the home of Opera Australia, the Sydney Symphony and the Sydney Theatre Company. It is administered under the government department of the New South Wales Ministry of the Arts by the Opera House Trust.

Sydney Opera House Facts and Figures

  • The sail structure of the the Sydney Opera House was made with a series of large precast concrete 'shells'.
  • Each section is taken from a hemisphere of the same radius.
  • Although the roof structures of the Sydney Opera House are commonly referred to as shells, they are in fact not shells in a strictly structural sense, but are precast concrete panels supported by precast concrete ribs.
  • The Opera House covers 4.5 acres (1.8 hectares) of land.
  • The Opera House is 183 metres (605 feet) long and about 120 metres (388 feet) wide at its widest point.
  • The building is supported on 580 concrete piers sunk up to 25 metres below sea level.
  • The power supplied to the Opera House is equivalent of a town of 25,000 people. The power is distributed by 645 kilometres of electrical cable.
  • The roofs of the House are covered with 1,056,000 glossy white and matte cream Swedish-made tiles, though from a distance the tiles look only white.
  • Despite their self-cleaning nature, the roof tiles have scheduled maintenance and periodic replacement.

Proposition and Planning

Planning for the Sydney Opera House began 30 years before it was official opened, by the then Director of the NSW State Conservatorium. of Music. Mr Eugene Goossens lobbied for a suitable venue for large theatrical productions.

At the time the only venue for such productions was the Sydney Town Hall, which was not considered large enough.

By 1954, Goossens succeeded in gaining the support of NSW Premier Joseph Cahill, who called for designs for a dedicated opera house. Goossens also proposed Bennelong Point to be the site for the Opera House.

233 entries from 32 countries were submitted for the competition when launched by Cahill on 13 September 1955.

The criteria specified a large hall seating 3000 and a small hall for 1200 people, each to be designed for different uses including full-scale operas, orchestral and choral concerts, mass meetings, lectures, ballet performances and other presentations.

The winning design was announced in 1957, submitted by Jørn Utzon, a Danish architect. Utzon arrived in Sydney in 1957 to help supervise the project.

The project was built in three stages:

  • Stage I (1959–1963) building the upper podium.
  • Stage II (1963–1967) construction of the outer shells.
  • Stage III (1967–1973) interior design and construction.

Official Opening

On October 20, 1973 the Opera House was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony attended by millions.

The opening was televised and included fireworks and a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

Prior to the official opening, two performances had already taken place in the finished building.

A performance of Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace was played at the Opera Theatre on September 28, 1973. And a public concert in the Concert Hall conducted by Charles Mackerras was performed on September 29, 1973.

But as early as 1960 there had been performances during the contruction of the Opera House. A number of lunchtime performances were arranged for the workers. So the first artist to perform at the Opera House was Paul Robeson.


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    • Longtail profile image

      Longtail 7 years ago

      Ginger bread!

      Just kidding. Concrete and steel.

    • profile image

      mokhtiar  7 years ago

      what is it made of ?