Sydney Architecture Walks: Utzon and the Sydney Opera House

Things to do, Walks and tours Sydney
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Fans of The Wire, you won’t believe the political skulduggery in Sydney's architectural history

Perhaps the only thing more gobsmacking than the Sydney Opera House itself is the story of how it came to be. For instance, did you know Jørn Utzon’s design wasn’t even shortlisted from among the 233 entries, until the late arrival of the fourth judge, Eero Saarinen, who plucked it from the maybe pile? That the project’s purported cheapness (!) was what got it over the line? That Utzon solved an engineering problem that the world’s best engineers could not solve? That Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe hated the design? The ironies pile up in this excellent walk, led by Eoghan Lewis, who in addition to being a professional architect and Opera House expert is an inspired storyteller.

Lewis leads the walk from the Museum of Sydney to various views of the iconic structure, while explaining the philosophy behind Utzon’s design (inspirations included Mayan ruins, the Acropolis, birds, fish and walnuts). We go under and into the building to learn how the Danish architect tackled problems like drainage and expansion; hear how the media first fawned over, then later castigated him; and discover how badly off the rails things went after Utzon was fired – you’ll never look at certain dodgy non-Utzon add-ons the same way again. Lewis paints a picture of an eccentric man with a singular artistic vision; blinkered, self-interested politicians; and a project that saw the light of day through what can only be described as a series of miraculous misfortunes.

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By: Nick Dent

Posted:

Venue name: Sydney Architecture Walks: Utzon and the Sydney Opera House
Contact:
Address: Museum of Sydney
Cnr Phillip & Bridge Sts
2000
Price: $49-$59
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