The Sydney Opera House Story
In 1955 as a result of the vision of Eugene Goossens, the popular head
of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, an international architectural
competition to build a new performing arts centre in Sydney was
launched. Joseph Cahill was the Labor premier of New South Wales at
the time. The competition received more than 234 designs from
architects around the world. There were eminent architects from
Australia, England and the United States on the judging panel.
John Utzon from Denmark submitted an entry that did not meet the
competition rules. Eero Saarinen, the judge from Michigan in the
United States, arrived late for the beginning of the judging. Despite
the fact that the other judges had rejected Utzon's entry, Saarinen on
viewing the rejects persuaded the other judges that the Utzon design
should win. Even though it technically broke some of the competition
rules, the soaring free-form white shells were not only great
architecture but they possessed a quality that 'inspires man' said
Utzon's design solved a traditional problem of differing height
requirements in theatres. The stage tower needs enough vertical height
for scenery to be hoisted above the stage. Yet the roofs over audience
seating were usually lower and the foyers lower again. Utzon's three
sets of shells resolved this difficulty. Until he won the competition
Utzon had mainly worked on large-scale residential developments.
The winner was announced in January 1957, and construction stated in
March 1959. It was originally envisaged that it would take four years
to build and cost $7 million; in fact, it took 16 years to complete
and cost over $100 million.
The construction proceeded in slow stages. Utzon objected to the start
as he had not yet completed the designs for the structure, but the
government insisted that construction get under way, and so it did!
This was not the only problem. The government changed its requirements
from two theatres to four theatres after construction had started.
There were technical/structural problems with the original design.
After four years research, Utzon altered the design of the roof vaults