The path to the opera house
Tourists can't imagine Sydney without its opera house — yet this famous building, which opened 40 years ago on 20 October 1973, was completed only after a long struggle.
The need for a large theatre venue was recognized in the late 1940s. A competition for the design was held in 1955 and the winner, Danish architect Jørn Utzon, announced in 1957. Utzon's design, however, was in the form of simple drawings. A lot of the details still had to be worked out.
Construction presented one problem after another. The city insisted that building begin before the designs were complete. The engineers weren't able to build the parabolic shapes that Utzon had wanted, without the project becoming extremely expensive, so the now-familiar "shells" were created. It took at least 12 attempts to find the right shape.
Tension between Utzon and a new government in New South Wales led to the architect leaving the project in 1966. Major changes were made to the design of the interior, with different purposes being given to the different halls. These changes of size and shape negatively affected the acoustics.
When the opera house was finished in 1973, it was 10 years late and had cost 14 times the amount that had been estimated in 1957. However, the building quickly fulfilled its purpose not only as a theatre venue but also as a local and national landmark.
Utzon received the highest honour in architecture, the Pritzker Prize, in 2003, for the opera house, which the prize committee described as "one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century ... a symbol for not only a city, but a whole country and continent".
The opera house was declared a World Heritage Site in 2007, a year before Utzon's death.
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