Sydney Opera House

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 July, 2009, 12:00am

Unesco World Heritage Site

The Sydney Opera House is one of the greatest works of architecture of the 20th century. Two years ago, it became a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Usually a World Heritage listing is for very old places that need to be protected.

But the Opera House is less than half a century old. Work began on it in 1959. It was finished 14 years later in 1973. When it was finally finished, it had cost A$102 million (HK$649 million).

A worldwide competition

When the premier of the Australian state of New South Wales decided the state capital city of Sydney needed an opera house, he held a competition for a design. The competition was open to architects anywhere in the world.

The prize for the competition seems small now - it was only ?5,000. But, when the competition was held in 1955, it was a lot of money.

In the end, 233 architects from 32 countries submitted designs. The winner was a Danish architect. His name was Joern Utzon. In 1963, he moved his office to Sydney.

Building an architectural triumph

There were lots of problems at first in building the Opera House. One of the main issues was that the Danish architect couldn't get his design completely finished.

But finally construction began in 1959. The Opera House was built in stages. One of the hardest was Stage II, which started in 1963.

Stage II was building the roofs. In Utzon's design, the roofs were meant to look like sails. The idea was that the Opera House would look like ships sailing in the harbour.

The result is beautiful, but it turned out to be very difficult to do. Most of the ways to do it were too expensive.

Architect resigns

Utzon ended up resigning. Today, most people agree he designed a building that was almost impossible to build at the time. He had won seven architecture competitions before, but nobody had been able to build one of his designs.

Politicians in New South Wales thought the Opera House was too expensive, even though many people said it would be an architectural masterpiece when it was finished.

When the government stopped giving him money, Utzon resigned. The building was eventually finished, but it was still far more expensive than the government had expected.

Opening and making up

The Sydney Opera House was finally opened by the queen of England in 1973. Utzon was not even invited to the opening.

But in the 1990s, Australia began to realise what an amazing building he had created. In 1999, he was asked back as design consultant for future changes.

Utzon died last year.

now do this

1 The man who designed the Sydney Opera House was ...

a. Australian.

b. Danish.

c. Swiss.

2 The design of the Sydney Opera House is meant to look like ...

a. sails.

b. clouds.

c. waves.

3 The Opera House took ... years to build.

a. 53

b. 24

c. 14


1. b, 2. a, 3. c