Friday, January 20, 2017

Almost a cathedral

One of the most iconic structures in the world is located here, the Sydney Opera House. Danish architect Jorn Utzon's entry was chosen in a worldwide competition in 1957 that drew some 220 plans; his idea was passed over in the first culling, but a fourth judge was added, and he liked "#218." Little did anyone know that Utzon's drawings had not yet benefited from an engineering analysis.  
The original budget for the whole project was seven million dollars, with an expected completion schedule of three years.  The Opera House was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, and cost 103 million, some thirteen years and 96 million dollars over.
Utzon had a vision, and he meant to carry it out. Six years were spent going through twelve iterations of how to build and erect the the shells. It took Utzon three years just to get the tiles perfect that cover the 'sails' of the building. (They never need cleaning because of their design, and rain water is channeled quietly away without gutters to spoil the aesthetics.)
The concrete ribs of the shell are left to be viewed, and in Utzon's words 'engage the viewer in the structure itself.'
Utzon's father was a marine architect, and many design elements pay homage to him; for a small example, all signage on the right (starboard) side of the structure is green, that on the port side is red.
As the construction time dragged on and costs soared because of the difficulty of the construction of the shells, bureaucrats fell out of love with Utzon, and he finally quit over the controversy in March 1966. Luckily by that time, the 'sails' were near completion, and the halls themselves, of which there are six of various size, were designed and carried out by architects that had worked with, and understood Utzon. Sadly, he left Australia, never to return or see his work in life.
During the last ten years or so of his life - he died in 2008 - there was a rapprochement, and Utzon continued to direct some details of the building.  He received the Pritzker Prize, the 'Nobel Prize' of architecture in 2002 for his work on the Opera House, and the building is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, having been placed there in June of 2007.
I have not been in many other buildings, save temples, some cathedrals and a few others, that have evoked a stronger feeling of awe and even reverence. There was something about this place, a structure that has become the symbol of the nation.
So, next time you're halfway 'round the world, make sure and take the tour, and forget the $40. And make sure your wife is listening to the tour and not Led Zeppelin on her 'phones.
After catching our breath, we walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens, and they were as beautiful as expected.
Many years and many activities ago, I learned that Paula must be fed to be happy. We found a cafe in the Botanical Gardens, but carefully read the signs warning the patrons sitting outside of the rapacious birds patrolling the area.  Sure enough, I saw these Australian white ibis dive for any food left around:
The birds were even tagged.  #114 was a particularly bad actor - watch out for him!
Just then, I noticed that MY food was being taken by a devious and determined creature!
I quickly tagged her. Watch your fish 'n' chips in Sydney when #157 is on the prowl! I'm just sayin'.
We had time to take in the Sydney Aquarium, and saw a lot of creatures with whom we had recently swum on the Great Barrier Reef.
 And a few that we hadn't.
We maintained our diligence in reading and obeying warning signs, because as the dugong keeper reminds you, if you climb the fence, you will fall in!!
We hope that your dugong fences are in good repair, and remember, don't climb them.
Dave & Paula 

1 comment:

Patti said...

Very interesting stuff about the Opera House. I've heard the acoustics are amazing.