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Sydney Opera House

Updated on September 11, 2015

The Sydney Opera House, at Bennelong Point on Sydney Harbour, caters for all the performing arts and is one of the world's most unusual buildings.

It was designed by the Danish architect Joern Utzon and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.

The idea for an opera house was put forward in 1954 by J.J. Cahill, then Premier of New South Wales. A worldwide competition, launched in 1955, attracted 233 designs. Utzon's, with its soaring white-tiled concrete roof shells resembling the sails of a boat, was chosen as the most imaginative.

During construction however, technical problems emerged, causing disputes that culminated in Utzon's resignation in 1966. The work was compelted, at a cost of around $102,000,000 under the principal direction of Sydney architects Hall, Todd and Littlemore. Internally, the finished building differed from the original concept. It contains a concert hall seating 2700, an opera theater seating 1550, a drama theatre for 550, a music room for 420, and an exhibition hall and two public restaurants.

Photo ©2009 Chris Mullaney. Used with permission.
Photo ©2009 Chris Mullaney. Used with permission.

Location, location, location

The location of Sydney Opera House is built on Bennelong Point, so called as it was the area where Bennelong once lived.

Bennelong was one of the first Aborigines to live along the newly arrived British settlers. Bennelong resided with Governor Arthur Phillip and taught the Governor about native Aboriginal life.

After a brief return to his tribe at Manly, Bennelong again lived at Sydney Cove in a specially built hut on the eastern arm of the cove. This is the area which was later named Bennelong Point.

Bennelong accompanied Phillip to England in 1792 and along with another Aborigine, Yemmerrawannie, were the first Aborigines to be seen in that country. Yemmerrawannie died in England but Bennelong returned to Australia with Governor Hunter in 1795.

Yep, that little guy there is the author of this hub at age... I may have been 4 or 5 I think.
Yep, that little guy there is the author of this hub at age... I may have been 4 or 5 I think.

The Architect

Danish architect Joern Utzon (born 1918) was responsible for the design of the Sydney Opera House. his design won the competition organized by the New Suth Wales Government for the construction of a cultural center at Bennelong Point.

From 233 entries originating from 32 countries, Utzon's plan was judged the best. Utzon was awarded a $10,000 first prize and was contracted to supervise construction, Stage 1 of which began in 1959.

From the outset Utzon clashed with executives of the project, claiming the State Government was pushing ahead with construction before the design was finalized. As construction costs soared, from the equivalent of seven million dollars in 1959 to forty-eight million in 1965 when the newly elected Liberal Government took control, the clashes grew more heated.

Early the next year Utzon resigned and despite attempts from both sides to reach a compromise, none was ever reached. Construction went ahead, though much of Utzon's original concept was altered. By the time of completion in 1973, the cost exceeded $102,000,000.

Utzon later became Professor of Architecture at Hawaii University and continued a successful design career.


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    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      I have always admired the design of the opera house, and am delighted to now have it's history. Thanks

    • shamelabboush profile image

      shamelabboush 8 years ago

      Great architecture. The Opera House has become a symbole of Australia. This monument combines both majestic touch and beauty.