Sydney Opera House.
In 1978 the Pritzker Prize (they call it the “architectural Nobel Prize”) was founded, and in 2002 the first prize winner was an Australian – Glenn Mercutt. The architect was awarded for his designs of very “correct” houses – eco-friendly, discreet in form and deeply thought out in terms of the planning and climatic conditions of Australia. The whole architectural world was astonished by the jury’s decision: the previous winners were known for their radical statements both in theory and practice.
But even more surprising was the next, the anniversary year of the Pritzker Prize. The 25th laureate was the Dane Jorn Utson, the author of the most famous and provocative structure in the world – the Sydney Opera House. At that time Utson was 84 years old and had designed many buildings in different countries, but it was the Australian project of 1956 that was first mentioned by the jury: “The Danish architect Jorn Utson, who has designed probably the most famous building in the world, the Sydney Opera House…”.
Architect Jorn Utson with a model of the Sydney Opera House building. 1966 © W. Croser / Getty Images
Utson was commissioned to design the opera in an open international competition, beating out 200 other entrants. In 2019, renderings based on drawings of several other bids were published: they show how different Utson’s sculptural idea was from everything else.
The contest organizers proposed Cape Bennelong as the site for the future opera building. It divides two bays – Sydney and Farm – in the bay. Here the history of the city began: in 1817, on Bennelong began to build Fort Macquarie, which in the twentieth century was replaced by a streetcar depot.
View of Sydney Harbor. 1900s Powerhouse Museum.
This location called for a facility with equal facades. The main entrance wanted to face the city where the audience would come from, but other angles of the opera had to adorn the panorama of Sydney. This was contrary to traditional theater building construction techniques, which usually have technical spaces at the rear for storing and loading sets with gates and ramps, ventilation outlets, and so on. Utson has tucked all the extra rooms into a large two-story podium, which doesn’t seem cumbersome thanks to the plasticity of the main volumes that open up in different directions and divert attention from the lower part.
Climbing the broad staircase to the second floor, the viewer symbolically breaks away from everyday life and goes to meet art in the direction of the ocean and the majestic vaults of theater. In the album “Sydney Opera. Principles of Design by Jorn Utson (2002), the architect said that he liked the idea of a plateau, created by man to contact the sublime, as in the Mayan structures he saw in Mexico.
The vaults of the Sydney Opera House are most often compared to petals and sails. The former refer to the historic botanical garden next door, which nearly became the opera’s parking lot. The latter rhyme with the profession of Utson’s father, a famous yacht designer. At the same time, this hooded form allowed the architect to conceal the stage box traditionally towering above the roofs of theater buildings, from which the scenery descends to the stage as the pictures change, and sometimes the actors soar. Some of the lighting and sound equipment is also located there
However, it turned out to be very difficult to put Utson’s ideas into practice. the author of the project (still young for the architectural profession) drew the vaults without consulting the designers. No one knew how to implement such a project without spending exorbitant sums of money and involving huge human resources. The British engineer Ove Arup was brought in to solve the problem. The company he founded, now called Arup, or Arup Group Limited, is still one of the world leaders in engineering design. The main problem was that the curvature of the vaults, drawn by the inspired Utson by hand, it was impossible to reduce to a single clear and simple mathematical formula, which would be easy to work with when calculating the structures and by which builders could reproduce the idea in reinforced concrete without errors. The more so because the project planned to finish the vaults with tiles, and with the different curvature of the surface in each individual point, each tile would have to be created individually for a particular area.
There was no modern high-precision equipment at that time: to implement the project, the reinforcement would have been bent by hand and the temporary concrete casting mold would have been created directly at the construction site. And all this at a maximum height of 65 meters and at a site open to the ocean winds. And also the load-bearing ribs, joints with slabs, engineering risers, finishing with traditional glazed ceramic tiles and other important details.
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Its masterpiece architecture combined with a vibrant performing space has become a hallmark of Australia.
It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. This makes the Sydney Opera House an outstanding example of architectural ensemble, exceptional for all civilization, an example of human creative genius.
The theater is located in the picturesque harbor of New South Wales, on Bennelong Point. The building is surrounded on three sides by water and stands on deeply driven piles.
Sydney Opera House repertoire
The Sydney Opera House hosts about 3,000 events a year. With a huge capacity, it has about 1.5 million visitors over the same period.
The selection of events here ranges from small to large – cabaret, comedy shows, opera, children’s shows and interactive, theater and dance productions, classical and contemporary music, films, performances and much more.
Digital creative learning, a journey into the universe of Jorn Watson, an introduction to Australian history, exclusive performances by talented artists, performers, musicians – all this and many more opportunities are hidden within the walls of the building.
There’s a fascinating children’s program where you’re invited to watch the development of the dinosaur era or watch Simon Tedeschi perform as Mozart. Moreover, the theater provides social assistance and support for the visually and hearing impaired – subtitles and audio descriptions, sound enhancement systems, companion cards, the ability to bring guide dogs onto the premises, etc.
Tickets need to be booked in advance, as there are a lot of people wanting to get to the events.
The Sydney Opera House is constantly changing, relentlessly following the trends of the progressive world. The theater itself creates these trends
Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Joan Sutherland, Oprah Winfrey, Jacqueline McKenzie and others once performed here. The history of the theater continues to be made today.
Tours of the Sydney Opera House
There are 4 ways to visit the Opera House in Sydney.
Option 1: Walk along the building along the waterfront with camera in hand. Explore from all angles the non-trivial facades and walk into the theater lobby. It’s free and available for everyone.
Option 2. Buy tickets to a performance, event, show.
Or participate in the annual New Year’s Eve celebration. Include watching fireworks and a concert, a visit to the Sydney Theater, and a sumptuous dinner and buffet.
Option 3. Visit the Bennelong Restaurant and Bar inside the building.
Option 4. Take a tour arranged by the theater itself.
The tours are offered in English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, German, and North Chinese.
There is plenty to choose from:
- The Sydney Opera House Tour includes an introduction to the history of the theater and a walk through its endless labyrinths. Duration is one hour and tickets start at $43.
- The Backstage Tour includes a behind-the-scenes tour and breakfast. Duration – about 2.5 hours, ticket price – from $175.
- The Tour and Tasting Plate offers an opportunity not only to experience the atmosphere and secrets of the Opera House, but also to taste the best local cuisine. The duration is about 1 hour and the ticket price is from $82.80.
- Tour and Dine is similar to the previous tour with the difference being that after learning about the history, guests will go to the Opera Bar for dinner. Duration is about 1 hour, ticket price is from $80.
- Junior Adventure Tour is a youth adventure tour filled with interactive activities, games, and unusual facts about theater. Duration – 1 hour, ticket price from $21.
- The Sydney Opera House Access Tour is designed for visitors with disabilities. Duration – 1 hour, ticket price – from $43.
Reservations for the tour can be made on the Sydney Opera House’s official website.
What’s inside the Sydney Opera House building
The theater is home to the Australian Opera Company, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
The Opera House contains 5 theater halls, 5 rehearsal rooms, many administrative offices, hallways and lounges, restaurants, bars and gift stores. In all, there are 800 rooms with 2,200 doors leading to them.
The Concert Hall and Opera House, with their ceilings formed by the two largest arches of “sails”, the Drama Theater, the Music Hall and the Studio Theater are a list of the five theatrical halls. Their total capacity is 5,532 seats.
In addition to productions, the services of the Sydney Theatre are also used for weddings, lectures, parties, conferences and other cultural events. Small recording, exhibition and reception rooms are provided for these purposes.
In contrast to the exterior, which is made in natural colors, the interior of the rooms is striking with a bright color scheme in the “space-age Gothic” style. Interestingly, the prosceniums of the Drama Theater and Opera House are decorated with tapestry works of John Coburn.
The magnificent gastronomic facilities for spectators and tourists are worth special attention.
“Opera Kitchen” is the perfect place to enjoy Asian dishes with seafood and burgers. Famous for its excellent cocktail list. Opening hours are 7:30 a.m. to p.m.
“Bennelong Restaurant and Bar is a cozy place with an interior more like a cathedral or miniature theater. Here you should try Australian cuisine and wine for a late dinner. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to p.m. (Mon – Wed) or 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to p.m. (Thu – Sat).
“Portside Sydney Opera House is a modern Australian restaurant with a casual atmosphere. Offers lunch, late dinner and children’s menu. The opening hours are from 11:30 until the evening every day.
The beginning of history
The idea for the Opera Theatre first came from Eugene Hussain, principal conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. At the time there were no buildings suitable for opera productions.
The Australian authorities supported Husein’s idea, and a competition was soon announced for the right to design the theater. Among more than two hundred works by architects from all over the world, the jury chose the project of the young Jorn Watson.
The architect of the Sydney Opera House, Jørn Watson The Danish architect, in addition to the Sydney Opera House, designed the Kuwaiti National Assembly building. Recipient of the Wolf, Sonning and Pritzker Prizes, honorary companion of the Order of Australia. After leaving Australia, he never returned there, and consequently never got to see the completed and completed opera house.
Watson’s work was amazing from an artistic point of view, but completely unsupported from an engineering point of view. The architect himself did not expect to be chosen. The drawings were “raw”, it was difficult to even approximately determine the necessary costs of the project.
Construction of the Opera House in Sydney
Four years and seven million dollars – that’s what the government gave the young architect for the construction of the Opera House. To keep within these figures was unrealistic.
Firstly, no one had any experience in creating a “sail” roof. It took only six years to develop the schemes and search for a workable solution. The final design was in the form of sphere sections. This opened a whole range of possibilities in the design and control of the geometric shapes of the building.
Secondly, the non-standard roof caused a lot of problems with the acoustics of the hall. It was necessary to additionally make a sound-reflecting ceiling with special gutters.
Thirdly, the government interfered with the construction, demanding that additional halls be added and controlling the process in every way possible.
The original budget was greatly exceeded. This did not please the local authorities. Jorn Watson was accused of unprofessionalism and suspended from the project. Peter Hall took over as the new architect.
The Sydney Theatre became an expression of expressionist views, a place of “celebration of culture” and reverence for tradition, ahead of its time.
14 years and $102 million is how long it actually took to build the Sydney Opera House.
On October 20, 1973, the grand opening of the Sydney Opera House took place. The lavish ceremony was conducted by Queen Elizabeth II to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
The test performance featured Donald Smith, Elizabeth Fretwell, and members of the National Training Orchestra.
Architecture in numbers.
- 22,000 square meters is the area of the opera house.
- 67 meters is the height of the building’s roof.
- 1,056,006 ceramic tiles were needed for the roof to make it appear perfectly smooth.
- 6,225 square meters is the area of the entire glass façade in the theater.
- 25,000 people – a city whose energy consumption is equal to that of the Sydney Opera House.
- 202 million dollars is the estimated cost of auditorium upgrades and major renovations to replace outdated technology, according to a series of projects the theater unveiled in 2016.
Interesting facts about the Sydney Opera House
- The image of the Sydney Opera House was used as the basis for the official logo of the 2000 Olympic Games. The theater was also included in the route along which the torch was carried.
- Jorn Watson himself said that the architecture of the theater had nothing to do with shipbuilding (sails). He compared the structure to a peeled orange, the peel of which looks like parts of a spherical surface.
- The first production at the Opera House was Prokofiev’s War and Peace.
- The Concert Hall is home to the largest organ in the world. It has five manual keyboards and 10 154 pipes.
- Sydney theater has long been popularized. For example, it appears in “Godzilla Final Wars” and in the final scene of “Finding Nemo,” “Sunshine.” Lego produced a special “Sydney Opera House” constructor with 2,989 parts. And the Fugo Games team developed an entire game dedicated to the theater, WORDS OF WONDERS.
- Some modern buildings have been inspired by the architecture of the Sydney Opera House, including the Auditorio de Tenerife and the City of Arts and Sciences in Spain and the Lotus Temple in India.
- The color of the roof doesn’t just come in white and beige and milk colors. Often in the evening include bright lights, and the building turns into a shimmering stone or becomes a screen to reflect video art and vivid compositions.
How to get to the Opera House
The Opera House building in Sydney is a six-minute walk from Circular Quay station, an international passenger port and transportation hub. There are several ferry docks, bus stops and a train station.
By train (T).
You can get to Circular Quay station on the T2 Inner West & Leppington Line, T3 Bankstown Line, T8 Airport & South Line trains.
The train station is open 24 hours a day.
By ferry (F)
Getting by ferry can be much more interesting, such as F1 from Manly, F2 from Taronga Zoo, F3 from Parramatta River, F5 from Neutral Bay, F6 from Mosman Bay, F7 from Double Bay, F8 from Cockatoo Island.
Or disembark en route “Watsons Bay to Pyrmont Bay” or “Pyrmont Bay to Watsons Bay” from F4 at Circular Quay.
Tickets must be purchased at the kiosks at the marina. There are also sea cabs available.
By bus (B).
Buses #304, 373, 374, 377, 507, 515, 518, 520 and M52 go to the “Stand A” stop.
To “Stand D” – №333, 333N, 392, 394, 396, 397, 399, L94, X94, X97. There are also free buses for seniors and less mobile customers – schedule.
Cabs in Sydney can be booked in advance or caught on the street simply by raising your hand. Well-known companies are Sydney Shuttle Taxi Cab, Sydney Maxi Taxis.
Trailer of a performance of Turandot at the Sydney Opera House