Sydney Opera House (1957 - 1973) is a masterpiece of late modern architecture. It is admired internationally and proudly treasured by the people of Australia. It was created by a young architect who understood and recognised the potential provided by the site against the stunning backdrop of Sydney Harbour. Denmarks Jrn Utzon gave Australia a challenging, graceful piece of urban sculpture in patterned tiles, glistening in the sunlight and invitingly aglow at night. Jorn Utzon died in Copenhagen in November 2008 aged 90.

In its short lifetime, Sydney Opera House has earned a reputation as a world-class performing arts centre and become a symbol of both Sydney and the Australian nation. 

World Heritage Listed
The distinctive roof comprises sets of interlocking vaulted shells set upon a vast terraced platform and surrounded by terrace areas that function as pedestrian concourses.

The two main halls are arranged side by side, with their long axes, slightly inclined from each other, generally running north-south. The auditoria face south, away from the harbour with the stages located between the audience and the city. The Forecourt is a vast open space from which people ascend the stairs to the podium. The Monumental Steps, which lead up from the Forecourt to the two main performance venues, are a great ceremonial stairway nearly 100 metres wide.

The vaulted roof shells were designed by Utzon in collaboration with internationally renowned engineers Ove Arup & Partners with the final shape of the shells derived from the surface of a single imagined sphere. Each shell is composed of pre-cast rib segments radiating from a concrete pedestal and rising to a ridge beam. The shells are faced in glazed off-white tiles while the podium is clad in earth-toned, reconstituted granite panels. The glass walls are a special feature of the building, constructed according to the modified design by Utzons successor architect, Peter Hall. 

History of the Design
Design and construction were closely intertwined. Utzons radical approach to the construction of the building fostered an exceptional collaborative and innovative environment. The design solution and construction of the shell structure took eight years to complete and the development of the special ceramic tiles for the shells took over three years. The project was not helped by the changes to the brief. Construction of the shells was one of the most difficult engineering tasks ever to be attempted. The revolutionnary concept demanded equally revolutionary engineering and building techniques. Baulderstone Hornibrook (then Hornibrook Group) constructed the roof shells and the interior structure and fitout. At the behest of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) the NSW Government changed the proposed larger opera hall into the concert hall because at the time, symphony concerts, managed by the ABC, were more popular and drew larger audiences than opera. 

Completion and Opening
In 1999, Jrn Utzon was re-engaged as Sydney Opera House architect to develop a set of design principles to act as a guide for all future changes to the building. These principles reflect his original vision and help to ensure that the buildings architectural integrity is maintained.

Utzon RoomThis project was followed by the first alteration to the exterior of the building with the addition of a new Colonnade along the western side, which shades nine new large glass openings into the previously solid exterior wall. This Utzon-led project, which was completed in 2006, gave the theatre foyers their first view of Sydney Harbour. The foyers' interiors are now being renovated to Utzon's specifications, to become a coherent attractive space for patrons. The design also incorporates the first public lift and interior escalators to assist less mobile patrons.

Utzon was working on designs to renovate the ageing and inadequate Opera Theatre. On all projects, he worked with his architect son Jan, and Sydney-based architect Richard Johnson of Johnson Pilton Walker.

Architecture Prize
In 2003 Utzon received the Pritzker Prize, international architecture's highest honour.


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