What went down when the Sydney Opera House went up

Reader Marcus Trimble from Sydney, sends Hello Beautiful! another take on the saga. I assume from the smarts of the letter that this is the Marcus Trimble who teaches design at the University of Sydney Faculty of Architecture and is involved with the Royal Australian Institute of Architecture.

View showing the two halls of the Sydney Opera House
and it looks like “Greetings from Sydney!” ay?

Hi Edward,

This assessment on the troubles of the Sydney Opera House by Boyle is a little simplistic and bit off the mark.

It was not a waning interest in opera that led to the opera hall changing location, nor was the smaller hall originally meant to hold the symphonic concerts.

The problems with the two halls were set in place early on with the general strategy as outlined Utzon’s competition scheme. The placement of the two halls side by side meant that fitting the required seating into both halls was problematic.

The original plan was that the opera and symphonic concerts would be held in the same large hall. Operable elements would reduce the size of the hall for opera to accommodate the large sets and so on. The smaller hall was to be used as the drama theatre. Utzon’s office and Arups spent much of their time on the project attempting to get enough seats into the major hall to satisfy the brief from the ABC and the acoustic requirements.

When it became clear that achieving the seat numbers was not going to be possible, a compromise was reached where the opera was moved to the smaller hall, additional seating was placed to the rear of the concert hall and the drama theatres were moved into the podium.

As for Utzon leaving the job, this was for a number of complex factors beyond mere disputes over the funding of models, such as the change of the NSW State Government and the ensuing change in management of the project, disputes over Utzon’s role as lead consultant and refusal to work with a government appointed team of architects, disagreements over fees, and the failing relationship between Utzon and Ove Arup.

I can recommend the excellent “The Saga of the Sydney Opera House” by Peter Murray which gives a detailed breakdown of the entire project.

Thank you very much Marcus Trimble.

photo from Flickr


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