I'm in Sydney, Australia recovering from jet lag after a long flight from LA. This is no time for somnolence. I've heard about, and seen pictures of, the famous Sydney Opera House for many years. Sleep can wait. Off the couch I go to Bennelong Point on Sydney Harbour for my first glimpse of this architectural wonder.
As I enter the Harbour between Sydney Cove and Farm Cove, my attention is immediately drawn to what is considered to be one of the 20th century's architectural fascinations. An enormous structure as it projects into the harbor as a peninsula, seven A380's could sit wing-to-wing on the site. This thing is huge!
The most striking feature of this edifice is its expressionist design. There are a series of enormous concrete shells that protrude off of a gigantic podium. The shells are composed of just over one million precast concrete panels that are either glossy white or matte cream. Covering 4.4 acres of land, the Opera House was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Together with the close by Sydney Harbour Bridge, this waterfront is unique, a favorite of visitors from around the world.
After doing some research, I found out that the genesis of this landmark has a long and storied history. The site for this project was chosen in 1954 after it was clear that the preexisting Sydney Town Hall was too small for large theatrical productions. It was decided to begin an international design competition which resulted in 233 entries from 32 countries around the world. A Danish architect, Jern Utzon, was the eventual winner, with plans to create a large hall that could seat 3000, and would be used for full-scale operas, concerts, lectures and ballet performances.
The final completion date for this project was in 1973 at a cost of $102 million, despite an initial estimate of $7 million in 1957, with a planned completion date of 1963. Universal acclaim for the Opera House's design notwithstanding, significant tension arose between the architectural team and the Australian government over issues including design changes and construction costs. After a long battle, Ultzon left the project in 1966, with eventual completion by another architect, Peter Hall.
As night descends, my wife, Lisa, and I are getting a view of the Opera House and and Sydney Harbour Bridge from a yacht as we cruise around Bennelong Point, with views of the central business district and the Royal Botanic Gardens as well. The weather has been improving, and I continue to snap photos every minute while the sun is setting. This has been an enormous amount of fun for me, having seen one of the 20th century's great architectural accomplishments.