Point of Interest

Sydney Opera House

Australia / The Pacific

The Sydney Opera House is one of the most famous and distinctive buildings to have been built in the 20th century.  It was designed by the Danish architect, Jørn Utzon (1918-2008).  Work started in 1959 and continued until 1973, but Utzon left the project, and Australia in 1966, never to return.  It was opened by the Queen on 20 October that year.  Utzon won a competition for the design in 1957, 233 designs having come from 32 countries.  It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2007.  For the Opera House Utzon won the prestigious Pritzker Architectural Prize, the citation reading: ’There is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House is his masterpiece.  It is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world – a symbol for not only a city but a whole country and continent.’

The Opera House occupies the whole of Bennelong Point, in the middle of the harbour between Sydney Cove and Farm Cove and not far from the harbour bridge.  The design is modern expressionist, with a series of large precast concrete shells forming the roofs of the structure.  The walls are a mixture of pink granite and glass curtain walls.

The Opera House has a Concert Hall with 2,679 seats, the Joan Sutherland Theatre with 1,507 seats, the Drama Theatre, Playhouse, and Studio.   There have been many significant events at the Opera House, including Pope John Paul II giving a speech in the Concert Hall, Nelson Mandela addressing a crowd of 40,000, and Dame Joan Sutherland giving her final performance here in 1991.

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