Sydney Opera House facts: The Sydney Opera House is located on Bennelong Point at East Circular Quay in Sydney, New South Wales, on latitude33° 51′ 35″ S and longitude 151° 12′ 50″ E.
Influenced by Mayan architecture and the Australian coastline, the opera house connects the city with its harbour.
Gambling Wins Us an Australian Icon
The Opera House took took 14 years to build – from 1959 to 1973. More SOH history here.
- Gambling funded its construction. After unsuccessful public fund raising campaigns, Opera House Lottery Number 1 went on sale in November 1957.
Each ticket was £5 (A$10) and first prize was £100,000 (A$200,000). The last Opera House Lottery was drawn in September 1986. Over A$105,000,000 was raised by these lotteries
Danish architect, Jorn Utzon, won the design competition for the new opera house with a sketch that was initially rejected as being ‘too ambitious’.
- Utzon’s design was followed only for the exterior. The interiors are the work of other architects.
- Arrangements were made in 1999 to work with Jorn Utzon to change at least some of the interior back to his designs, updated as required.
- A reception hall, the Utzon Room, was opened in 2004. It is the only Utzon interior finished so far, although the Joan Sutherland Theatre was also planned to be renovated with his input. Jorn Utzon died in 2008.
Architectural Composition of the Shells
- The shells were originally a series of parabolas, which couldn’t be built with the technology of the time.
- In mid 1961 Utzon and his engineering partners solved the problem by designing the shells as ribs of a sphere.All the ribs have the same radius.
- ″After three years of intensive search for a basic geometry for the shell complex I arrived in October 1961 at the spherical solution shown here.″
- ″I call this my ′key to the shells′ because it solves all the problems of construction by opening up for mass production, precision in manufacture and simple erection and with this geometrical system I attain the full harmony between all the shapes in this fantastic complex.″
The Tile Pattern
- 2194 precast concrete sections form the shells of the Sydney Opera House, facts that significantly shortened construction. Precasting the concrete sections allowed the tiles to be prefabricated and attached in sheets before the sections were raised.
- 1,056,006 self-cleaning white and cream tiles create the chevron pattern on the shells.
Sydney Opera House Facts: Halls
There are five performance spaces: the Concert Hall and the Joan Sutherland Theatre in the shells; the Drama Theatre, Playhouse and Studio in the upper podium, below the Concert Hall.
- Seating 2678, the Concert Hall is the largest venue. The Joan Sutherland Theatre is significantly smaller, with 1507 seats.
- More intimate yet are the Drama Theatre, seating 544, and the Playhouse, 398.
- The Studio is a small, flexible space often used for cabaret performances, with tables and
chairs as well as fixed row seating around the perimeters.
- Both main halls have some problems with acoustics, and the Joan Sutherland Theatre also suffers from poor sightlines, a ‘pocket handkerchief’ stage and a grossly inadequate orchestra pit.
- You can stroll Bennelong Point all the way around the Opera House for a 360 degree view around Circular Quay, the Rocks, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Kirribilli, the Heads, the Eastern Suburbs and Farm Cove. Once back at the external steps it’s just a few metres to the entrance of the Royal Botanical Gardens.
What’s On at the Sydney Opera House?
- Home to Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, it’s also a regular venue for Bell Shakespeare, the Sydney Theatre Company, the Sydney Dance Company and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Go here for cheap tickets to Sydney Opera House performances.
- The forecourt is used for outdoor performances. The monumental steps provide seating and the the high rockface opposite creates an ampitheatre effect.
- Open-air art and craft markets take place around the base of the Sydney Opera House every Sunday.
- Come 31 December New Years Eve celebrations take over the concert hall, the Joan Sutherland Theatre’s northern foyer, many of the restaurants and the western boardwalk.
- Spectacular light shows wash the opera house shells in stunning colours and shifting patterns as part of the Vivid Sydney festival each June. Also during special events on Sydney harbour at other times of the year.
- Restaurants and bars abound, both in and immediately around the Sydney Opera House. While none are super-cheap, there are reasonably priced options as well as fine dining restaurants and very hip bars.
Bennelong Point was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.