Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sydney Opera House: Did You Know?

Sydney Opera House sits on Bennelong Point. The Point was first developed as a fort, and was later used as a tram (street car) shed.

This Australian icon was designed by a Danish architect, Jorn Utzon (1918–2008). His was the winning design of 233 submitted in 1956. He won 5000 pounds for his design in January 1957.

Utzon didn't figure out the final crucial details of how to actually build the structure until 1961, possibly while he was eating an orange (see below).

Work began in 1959 with about 10,000 construction workers. It was expected to be completed in four years and cost AUD $7 million. It wasn't completed until 1973, and the final cost was AUD $102 million. State lottery funds financed it.

Utzon quit during a major funding crisis in 1966, when the NSW government was tempted to halt the project. He remained very bitter to the end of his life at what he perceived to be a lack of government support, and never set foot in the opera house he'd designed. His architect son, however, was a consultant for a 30-year interior renovation project that was named the Utzon Room. Brian was particularly amused to realize that this was probably one of the greatest government boondoggles of modern times, but one that happened to end successfully, an unfortunate inspiration to free-spending politicians everywhere.

The sails were built using three tower cranes made in France for this job, costing $100,000 each. They are not shells in a strictly structural sense, but are precast concrete panels supported by precast concrete ribs.

There are 1,056,006 roof tiles covering an area of approximately 1.62 hectares that sit over the structure. They were made by a Swedish tile company, Höganas. Contrary to their pure white appearance in photos, they are arranged in a subtle chevron pattern composed of glossy white- and matte-cream-colored tiles.

The highest roof shell of Sydney Opera House is 220 feet above sea-level, about the height of a 22-story building.

Utzon's inspiration for the design and construction of the sails came from an orange peel.

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