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Sydney Opera House, 2 Circular Quay east, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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List World Heritage List
Class Cultural
Legal Status Declared property (28/06/2007)
Place ID 105914
Place File No 1/12/036/0449
Statement of Significance
For the official statement of Outstanding Universal Value see the UNESCO site http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/166
 
Official Values
Criterion (I) Masterpiece of human creative genius
The Sydney Opera House is a great architectural work of the 20th century. It represents multiple strands of creativity, both in architectural form and structural design, a great urban sculpture carefully set in a remarkable waterscape and a world famous iconic building.
Description
The Sydney Opera House is situated at the tip of a prominent peninsula projecting into Sydney Harbour (known as Bennelong Point) and within close proximity to the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
 
The architectural form comprises three groups of interlocking vaulted ‘shells’, set upon a vast terraced platform (‘the podium’) and surrounded by terrace areas that function as pedestrian concourses. The two main shell structures cover the two main performance venues, known as the Concert Hall and Opera Theatre. The third set of shells that overlooks Sydney Cove was designed specially to house a restaurant. The two main halls are arranged side by side, oriented north-south with their axes slightly inclined. The auditoria are carved out of the high north end of the podium so that they face south, towards the city, with the stage areas positioned between them and the entrance foyers. The tallest shell reaches the height of a 20-storey building above the water. The shell structures cover nearly two hectares and the whole property is nearly six hectares. The complex includes more than 1000 rooms, most of which are located within the podium, as are virtually all the technical functions of the performing arts centre.
 
The base of the Sydney Opera House rises up as a massive monolith of reinforced concrete, a grand granite-clad podium. Its monumental scale forms an artificial promontory that offers continuity with the harbour-side landscape. The forecourt is a vast open space from which people ascend the stairs to the podium. The podium steps, which lead up from the forecourt to the two main performance venues, are a great ceremonial stairway nearly 100 metres wide and two storeys high.
 
Jørn Utzon’s design created an unconventional performing arts building in the way that it separated the performance and technical functions. The two main performance venues were placed beneath the vaulted roof shells, side by side upon the podium, while all the back-stage facilities and technical equipment were hidden within the podium. The vaulted roof shells were designed by Utzon in collaboration with Ove Arup & Partners; the final shape of the shells was derived from the surface of a single imagined sphere, some 75 metres in diameter. This geometry gives the building great coherence as well as allowing its construction to benefit from the economies of prefabrication.
 
Each shell is composed of pre-cast rib segments radiating from a concrete pedestal and rising to a ridge beam. The ribs of the shells are covered with chevron-shaped, pre-cast concrete tile lids. The shells are faced in glazed off-white tiles while the podium is clad in earth-toned, reconstituted granite panels. The north and south ends of the shells are hung with topaz glass walls that project diagonally outwards to form foyers, offering views from inside and outside. The glass walls are a special feature of the building, constructed according to architect Peter Hall’s modified design. The topaz glazed in-fill between the shells and the podium was built as a continuous laminated glass surface with facetted folds tied to a structure of steel mullions.
 
The Concert Hall is the largest performance space of the Sydney Opera House and accommodates up to 2700 people. Birch plywood, formed into radiating ribs on the suspended hollow raft ceiling, extends down the walls to meet laminated brush-box linings that match the floor. The Opera Theatre is the Sydney base for Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet, and a regular venue for the Sydney Dance Company. Its walls and ceiling are painted black and the floor is brush-box timber.
 
Peter Hall’s design for the interiors used different finishes to distinguish the various spaces in the building. The Utzon Room is a multi-purpose venue overlooking Farm Cove that is used for music recitals, productions for children, lecture programs and functions. Formerly the Reception Hall, the room was transformed in 2004 under Utzon’s design guidance. The western loggia is the first major structural work to the exterior of the building since the opening of the Sydney Opera House. It was designed by Utzon following his re-engagement with the Sydney Opera House in 1999. The western loggia comprises a colonnade opening into the western side of the podium facing towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Nine openings have been created to open up the foyers of the Drama Theatre, the Studio and the Playhouse to natural light and to allow access to harbour and city views. Utzon’s design for the western loggia was inspired by the colonnades found in Mayan temples, which were one of the original design sources for the Sydney Opera House.
History
A major cultural centre for Sydney and its siting at Bennelong Point had been discussed since the 1940s. In 1956 the New South Wales Government called an open-ended international design competition and appointed an independent jury, rather than commissioning a local firm. The competition brief provided broad specifications to attract the best design talent in the world; it did not specify design parameters or set a cost limit. The main requirement of the competition brief was a design for a dual function building with two performance halls.
 
The competition generated enormous interest in Australia and overseas. The New South Wales Government’s decision to commission Jørn Utzon as the sole architect was unexpected, bold and visionary. There was scepticism as to whether the structure could be built given Utzon’s limited experience, the rudimentary and unique design concept and the absence of any engineering advice. The competition drawings were largely diagrammatic, the design had not been fully costed and neither Utzon nor the jury had consulted a structural engineer. Utzon’s design concept included unprecedented architectural forms and demanded solutions that required new technologies and materials. The New South Wales Government also faced public pressure to select an Australian architect.
 
The Sydney Opera House is often thought of as being constructed in three stages and this is useful in understanding the history of the three key elements of its architectural composition: the podium (stage 1: 1958–1961), the vaulted shells (stage 2: 1962–1967) and the glass walls and interiors (stage 3: 1967–1973). Architect Jørn Utzon conceived the overall design and supervised the construction of the podium and the vaulted shells. The glass walls and interiors were designed and their construction supervised by architect Peter Hall supported by Lionel Todd and David Littlemore in conjunction with the then New South Wales Government Architect, Ted Farmer. Peter Hall was in conversation with Utzon on various aspects of the design for at least eighteen months following his departure. Ove Arup & Partners provided the engineering expertise for all three stages of construction.
 
Design and construction were closely intertwined. Utzon’s unique design together with his radical approach to the construction of the building fostered an exceptional collaborative and innovative environment. His collaborative model marked a break from conventional architectural practice at the time. 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 Sydney Opera House became a testing laboratory and a vast, open-air pre-casting factory.
 
The Sydney Opera House took sixteen years to build; this was six years longer than scheduled and ten times more than its original estimated cost. On 20 October 1973 the Sydney Opera House was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II. After inauguration, new works were undertaken over time. Between 1986 and 1988 the land approach and forecourt were reconstructed and the lower concourse developed under the supervision of the then New South Wales Government Architect, Andrew Andersons, with contributions by Peter Hall.
 
Between 1998 and 1999 the recording and rehearsal room was converted into two areas: an assembly area for the orchestra and the Studio, a revitalised performance space for the presentation of innovative music and performing arts. In 1998, in accordance with the celebration of the 25th anniversary of inauguration, the Sydney Opera House Trust appointed Sydney architect Richard Johnson to advise on future development of the site and to establish planning principles. Through Johnson, the Sydney Opera House Trust began negotiations to reconcile with Utzon and to re-engage him with the building in an advisory capacity. In 1999 Utzon formally accepted Premier Carr’s invitation to re-engage with the project by setting down design principles that outline his vision for the building and explain the principles behind his design. Over three years he worked with his architect son and business partner, Jan Utzon, and Richard Johnson to draw up his design principles for the Sydney Opera House, including the refurbishment of the reception hall, construction of the western loggia, exploration of options for improving the Concert Hall acoustics, improving services to the forecourt to support performances, modification of the orchestra pit and interior of the Opera Theatre. In 2002 The Sydney Opera House Trust released the Utzon Design Principles. In 2004 refurbishment of the Utzon Room (formerly known as the reception hall) was completed.
Condition and Integrity Not Available
Location
About 5.8ha, 2 Circular Quay and Macquarie Street, Bennelong Point, Sydney, comprising:
 
Lot 5 in Deposited Plan 775888 at Bennelong Point, Parish of St. James, county
of Cumberland, city of Sydney; and
 
Lot 4 in Deposited Plan 787933 at Circular Quay East, Parish of St. James, county
of Cumberland, city of Sydney.
Bibliography
Curtis, WJ, Modern architecture since 1900, 4 ed, Phaidon Press, Oxford, 1994.
 
DOCOMOMO International, The Modern Movement and the World Heritage List: advisory report to ICOMOS composed by DOCOMOMO’s International Specialist Committee on registers, The Netherlands, 1997.
 
Drew, P, Sydney Opera House: Jørn Utzon, Architecture in detail series, Phaidon Press, London, 1995.
 
Faber, T, Sharp, D and Norberg-Schulz, C, “Jørn Utzon: Special Issue”, World Architecture, n° 15, 1991.
 
Frampton, K, Modern architecture: a critical history, 3 ed, (1st edition 1980), Thames and Hudson, London, 1992.
 
Frampton, K, “Jørn Utzon: transcultural form and the tectonic metaphor” in Studies in tectonic culture: the poetics of construction in nineteenth and twentieth century, Architecture Press, Cambridge, Mass, 1996.
 
Giedion, S, “Jørn Utzon and the third generation: three works by Jørn Utzon—a new chapter of Space time and architecture”, Zodiac, n° 14, 36–47, 1965.
 
Hale, P and Macdonald, S, “The Sydney Opera House, an evolving icon” Journal of Architectural Conservation, vol. 11, n°2, July 2005, 7–21.
 
Jencks, C, Modern movements in architecture, Penguin, London, 1973.
 
Jencks, C, The iconic building, the power of enigma, Frances Lincoln, London, 2005.
 
Joedicke, J, Architecture since 1945: sources and directions, translated by JC Palmes, Pall Mall Press, London, 1969.
 
Jokilehto, J, “Great sites of modern architecture” World Heritage n° 25, April, 4–21, 2002.
 
Norberg-Schulz, C, “Jørn Utzon: Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia, 1957–73”, Global Architecture, vol. 54, March 1980, 54–58. Edited and photographed by Yukio Futagawa, A.D.A. Edita, Tokyo.
 
Utzon, J, “The Sydney Opera House”, Zodiac (Milan), n°14, 36–93, 1965, reprinted in Weston, R 2002, 134 –135.

Report Produced  Wed Sep 17 01:47:11 2014