Opera House: Sydney’s iconic landmark | Sunday Observer

Opera House: Sydney’s iconic landmark

9 July, 2017

If someone in school asks you to name Australia’s most famous building, you will not take more than two seconds to give the answer: Sydney Opera House. This building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is so different that there is simply no other building like it in the whole world.

A few months ago, I had the chance to see the Sydney Opera House. The building was designed by a genius from faraway Denmark – architect Jorn Utzon. Situated in Sydney harbour, close to the world famous Sidney harbour Bridge, the Opera House is adjacent to the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. One cannot imagine a better location for an Opera House.

It looks ready to sail at any moment, its dome-shaped ‘sails’ rustling against the wind. For a building that is practically on water, nothing else could be suitable.

Around seven million tourists visit the Opera House every year. The Opera House, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, hosts 1,500 performances every year. A few Sri Lankan artistes including Nanda Malani have performed here. A further 300,000 people take part in guided tours of the building every year. It is the home of the Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The history of the Sydney opera House goes back to 1957, when Utzon won an international design competition for a performing arts centre for Sydney. Utzon had never even been to Australia. He was authorized to go ahead with construction in 1958. After construction was delayed, Utzon left Australia in 1966 and never saw the completion of the building. Australian architect Peter Hall did the rest of the project.

The facility features a series of concrete shells each composed of sections of a sphere of 75.2 metres, forming the roofs of the structure. The building covers 1.8 hectares of land and is 183 metres long and 120 metres wide at the widest point. A bit of Sweden, neighbour of Denmark, lives on at the Opera House - the white and cream tiles used for the shells are from a Swedish company.

The bigger Concert Hall (2,679 seats) is in the western group of shells and the Joan Sutherland Theatre (1,500 seats) is in the eastern group. Smaller venues such as the 544 seat Drama Theatre, the 398 seat Playhouse, and 400 seat Studio are beneath the Concert Hall.

This building is the vision of one man who challenged the very foundation of architecture. Utzon, who passed away in 2008, received the Pritzker, architecture's highest honour, in 2003. The Pritzker Prize citation read: “The Sydney Opera House is a masterpiece. It is one of the iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty known throughout the world – a symbol for not only a city, but a whole country and continent.”

The easiest way to get there is to use Sydney’s extensive metro railway network. If you have time on your hands, you can walk around the old quarter of Sydney and see the Opera House from many more angles. You will never ever tire of admiring this wonder.