Queen Elizabeth II of Britain opened the Sydney Opera House in 1973. As Queen of Australia, she said of the Opera House, "The human spirit must sometimes take wing or feel the wind in its sails to create something so extraordinary, something that is not just for use."
In 1957, there was a competition for architects. There were 223 entries from 28 different countries. Eero Saarinen, a well-known Finnish architect, came from the United States to serve on the jury. One entry was just 12 pages of sketches of a strange building, like a sailing ship that plays music or a sculpture made of shiny shells in Sydney Harbour.
Some people say that Eero Saarinen was the one who got to the jury late and pulled the ingenious sketches of 38-year-old Dane Jorn Utzon out of a pile of work that had already been set aside. Nevertheless, the jury members wrote, "We returned to these drawings again and again and are convinced that they capture the idea of an Opera House that can become one of the world's greatest buildings."
The making of the Sydney Opera House a global icon
It was supposed to take four years to build the building, but it ended up taking 14 years. The cost was supposed to be seven million Australian dollars, but it ended up being 103 million. Jorn Utzon set up an office in Sydney so that the building of the Opera House could go up faster. But a new government took over, and its Minister for Public Affairs, Davis Hughes, who didn't have much education, turned out not to be a fan of culture either.
The press said that the fight over the Opera House's cost, quality, and timeline was between "local mediocrity" and "foreign genius."
Utzon's ability to manage the project was questioned. Utzon quit his job and left Sydney in 1966. The locking up of the blueprints, the author's brief conversation with the Minister, the slamming of the doors, and the emotions, all resembled a real drama.
In 1973, the building's architect was indeed not present at the opening of the Opera House, and his name was not mentioned in any of the opening speeches. The public triumph of the Sydney Opera House was a personal drama for the architect.
In 1995, "The Eighth Wonder" a play based on this story, has its world premiere at the Sydney Opera House. Paul Robeson sang "Ol' Man River" a song about the Mississippi, to construction workers on scaffolding at the Sydney Opera for the first time in 1960. The silhouette of the Opera House was also the symbol of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
In 2004, Jorn Utzon won the Pritzker Prize, which is the most prestigious award for architecture in the world. Three years later, the Sydney Opera House was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Utzon wanted this contrast between the blue Australian sky and the dark water of the harbor and the shiny sails or shells. The problem was solved by 1,056,006 special glazed tiles made in Sweden. They were called Sydney tiles. "The sun did not know how beautiful its light was until it shone on this building." said the famous architect Louis Kahn.
The Sydney Opera House is the most popular tourist attraction in Australia, with 8.2 million tourists going there every year. The value of the Opera House as a symbol of the nation has been put at $4.6 billion. That's the artist's brilliance and the politician's guts.
In 2013, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Opera House, Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark came to Sydney as patrons of the celebrations. A dispute with the Danish architect was "settled" at the royal level. But Jörn Utzon has been watching it all from high above since 2008.