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SOH, you think you can dance (and sing)

There’s a little train that goes through the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney. It’s for tourism. Tourists can see as much of the harbour as possible and rest their legs while they hear all about the past and present of our great city from the tour guide that’s driving.

Train. Tourism. Tour guides.

Tick, tick, tick.

More ticks than the Northern Beaches so far.

So anyway, the little train passes me one day while I was reading in the park. The tour guide was Canadian (irrelevant) and made up the history of the Sydney Opera House.


It was hot and I’d probably already done my cardio that day, so regretfully I didn’t chase them down, and now I am hell bent telling everyone to spread the truth about the Sydney Opera House. I’ve made a friend that came over for lunch one day read a whole book in entirety about it when she made the mistake of asking.

For you though, here’s a summarised version, in my words, of why the SOH (and the architect Jørn Utzon) are so amazing and why its worth knowing the real story. And how grateful we should be, because Utzon gave his own patriot city a much less spectacular Opera House option, and now they are basically not even on the map (has anyone even heard of Denmark?)

In five easy-to-remember dot points so you can recite at your next dinner party:

  1. While the arcs are referred to as “sails” the concept isn’t about ship sails. It’s an eclectic concept whereby Utzon used the idea of coming through the Heads in Sydney, with people approaching the structure from below, seeing only the sails against the sky forming a procession – much like the Mayan temples - sat up on a podium, freed from the everyday and feeling like you’re entering another world. He employed ancient Chinese building principles and practical naval building techniques. I’m no mind reader, but he obviously thought about it a lot

  2. As with a lot of architecture in Sydney (and Australia) a change of government from labour to liberal meant Utzon got a) a bit fucked over and/or b) lost his dream run… depending on your party persuasion

  3. Because of this he got jacked off and left the country, literally never to return (not even for ye grand olde opening). To be fair to him, he’s remained flawless with integrity and not (publicly) bad mouthed the people who chased him out for their own good/ego

  4. Because of said leaving he also didn’t do the internals, which are quite shit, tbh. A great lesson in concept and vision, and a client being on board for the entirety of the execution

  5. The granite for the exterior steps was mined from part of my familys' farm (and others) in the area of Oberon, NSW. I didn’t personally secure the contract, or own the land at the time (or even now) so it’s probably very irrelevant to your dinner party conversation

Said book to read in one sitting Utzon and the Sydney Opera House by Daryl Dellora.



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