The Wolanski Foundation Project


Sydney Opera House Story: a chronology 1606 to date





0ur site
Performing arts & theatre
Music & opera
Film, radio, TV
Sydney Opera House











The Sydney Opera House Story: 2011-2013

In response to visitor demand, this chronology has been compiled by Paul Bentley to record the story of the Dennis Wolanski Library of the Performing Arts and associated projects within the context of the Sydney Opera House story, theatrical associations with the Bennelong Point site, Jørn Utzon’s involvement with the House and changes to the building. It draws on and updates Philip Drew’s extensive chronology Utzon and the Sydney Opera House and a number of other sources. See also Sydney Opera House: an annotated list of sources

1606-1956 | 1957-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2005 | 2006-2007 | 2008 | 2009-2010 | 2011-2013 | 2014-



Jan 09

Germaine Greer, in Frank Gehry's New Building Looks Like Five Scrunched-up Brown Bags (The Guardian), commenting on comparisons in the media between the Sydney Opera House and Frank Gehry's design for a UTS Sydney building, says that the "Sydney Opera House may be one of the best known structures in the world, but it also a worse building than anything Gehry would want to put his name to" because of mismanagement of the construction by the client and subsequent tinkering with the interiors. "The Gehry partnership has the logistical expertise to get the building up on schedule and within budget. "History will not be repeated."


Jan 11 Death of Alistair Urquhart 1919-2011, acknowledged in Sydney Morning Herald obituary. Alistair served as a trustee of the Sydney Opera House from 1969-1981.
Jan 13 Elizabeth Farrelly, in Gehry Has Designed a Building that is More About Him Than Us (Sydney Morning Herald), while expressing the view that "Gehry is more interesting than most architects, and his UTS proposal is more engaging - cleverer, wackier, more inventive - than Sydney's (or any) norm," says that neither the Gehry building nor the Sydney Opera House are great buildings if considered against the following criteria. First, does it fulfil its own intentions? Second, are these intentions valid? Third, does it synthesise these with the demands of structure, economy, use and context to form a single coherent creation? Does it do the magic?" The Opera House, she says, fails the magic test because "its interiors, even as Utzon would have had them, deliver so little of the soaring, primitive, music-filled magic of its postcard promises."


27 Jan

Vanda Carson, in Comic Opera as Icon 'Finds' its Land (Sydney Morning Herald). says a new valuation by the NSW Land and Property Management Authority, puts a value of $2 billion on the Opera House land and building, an increase of 22% since the previous valuation in 2009. 


01 Feb

Vanda Carson, in Opera House's Underground Show (Sydney Morning Herald), reports the start of construction on the three-year $152 million program to build a series of tunnels and new loading dock. Phase one will involve moving a massive storm water drain that runs under the House.

03 Feb Sydney Opera House Trust appoints Eminent Architects Panel to advise it on architecture and design issues. Members of the panel, appointed for a three-year term are Keith Cottier, Kerry Clare and Ken Maher under the chairmanship of Peter Mould the NSW Government Architect.
10 May Sydney Opera House unveils a plaque to honour the contribution to the House of JJ Cahill. 40 members of the Cahill family were present, including Brian Cahill, the son of the former Premier and Jan Utzon the son of Jørn Utzon. The plaque reads: "To John Joseph Cahill, premier of New South Wales (1952-1959), who made it possible for the construction of the Sydney Opera House" and it is accompanied by the following quote by JJ Cahill "If we in our lifetime did nothing more than express our love for the arts by providing a building worthy of them, even when names are forgotten, the building will always remain the testimony to what was done in the year 1954 by a group of citizens for the encouragement of talent and culture." The plaque is located at the top of the monumental steps next to the plaque honouring Jørn Utzon, unveiled by Lin Utzon in March 1993.
02 July Vanda Carson, in the Daily Telegraph, reports archaeological work and findings as part of forecourt excavations relating to to the construction work at the Sydney Opera House. Consultants Godden Mackay Logan have been hired to advise on the process.
07 July Alec Shand QC dies. Mr Shand was a member of the Sydney Opera House Trust 1983-1991.
12 Aug Rachael Olding, in Opera Beauty - If Only She Sounded as Good as She Looks (Sydney Morning Herald), reports on a survey of 200 critics, performers and audience members on Australian concert hall acoustics conducted by the ABC's Limelight Magazine. The Sydney Opera House Concert Hall is ranked 18th and the Opera Theatre is awared the wooden spoon. The top spot goes to the Perth Concert Hall.
17 Aug Andrew Andersons, in Deja Vu for Architects Behind Barangaroo (Sydney Monring Herald), comments on the difficulty of managing public information and debate for a momentous project. "Widely polarised opinions are vehemently expressed, often on ideological grounds, with sometimes scan regard for complex facts and issues. When private enterprise has a major role, assertions of private gain at the expense of the public good seem inevitable." He concludes by saying, in relation to Barangaroo "there is also and exciting opportunity yet to be considered, to build a 2,000-seat Lyric Theatre instead of wasting $700 million on incremental improvements to the [Sydney Opera House] Opera Theatre."
09 Sep Barry Benson (1943-2011) dies. Barry was Programming Manager at the Sydney Opera House from 1975 until the early 1990s. A memorial service is held at Allan Drew Heritage Chapel, Castle Hill, on 15 September.
10 Sep Mathew Moore, in City Needs More Arts Space But How to Get It? (Sydney Morning Herald) advances the idea of a new lyric theatre at Barangaroo as earlier proposed by Andrew Andersons.
23 Sep Angelo Candalepas in an Sydney Morning Herald obituary of architect Col Madigan (1921-2011) notes his refusal to accept teh Sydney Opera House brief from the NSW Government the day after Jørn Utzon's departure in 1966.
30 Sep Joyce Morgan, in An Eye to Lure Top Talent to the House, reports the appointment of Yarmila Alfonzetti as Producer of Classical Music [SMH].
07 Oct Wendy Frew, in Opera House Hits the Road for a Coastal Retreat, reports on a three-year partnership with Port Macquarie Glasshouse that will deliver 20 Opera House programs and performances to the mid-north coast arts and entertainment centre, including performances streamed live from the Opera House, or taking part in question and answer sessions video link. [SMH]
09 Oct Jeremy Hance, in Activists Protest Australian Forest Destruction From the Top of the Sydney Opera House. reports on another security breach, when climbers abseiled to the top of the Opera House to unfurl a large banner targeting the products for sale in the showrooms of Harvey Norman retail chain. []
12 Oct Wendy Frew reports on the recommendations of Planning Sydney's Cultural Facilities, a report by Sweet Reason, commissioned by the State Government. Among the report's findings: the cost of presenting free outdoor Domain concerts could be significantly reduced by building a permanent concert facilities and the proposal to spend $1 billion to overhaul the Sydney Opera House was based more on a sense of pride than on value for money. [SMH]
19 Oct Marina Kamenev, in Sydney Opera House: Easy on the Eyes, Not the Ears (Time Magazine), reports on the debate over the acoustics, following the survey of musicians, critics and audience members published in the August issue of Limelight, which concluded that the Opera Theatre has the worst acoustics out of 20 major venues in Australia and the Concert Hall was rated as the 18th
23 Oct Wendy Frew, in Opera House's Plan to Attract Magic Numbers, reports that the Trust has commissioned a Las Vegas-style magic show, The Illusionists, as the centrepiece for its third Summer at the House season in a bid to conjure up bigger audiences. ]SMH]
29 Oct Joyce Moran explores the Opera House transformation from a hall for hire to a more active presenter. In How the Opera House Got Its Groove Back, she comments on the increased programming by the Sydney Opera House Trust, which now accounts for nearly 50 per cent of performances at the House. In the past five years, she reports, audience numbers and performances for Trust productions have steadily grown to 849 performances attracting 385,000 people. The 1999 objections of the major hirers to this "body-snatching' appears to have dissipated. "The Opera House's shift into programming work itself reflects what is happening elsewhere. [Sydney Festival Director Lindy Hume says] It's something to keep alert to; we don't want to compete. But it is important to remember why ;the Opera House' was built. Its role in Sydney's cultural life is not just to be a presenting house but being a showcase for the best of Sydney's arts organisations." [SMH]
15 Dec Elizabeth Farrelly comments on funding of $1.1 billion sought for improving the building. In Saving the Sculpture by the Sea, dhe perceives a smoke-and-mirrors scenario in the development of plans over the past decade (it has been "greatness-by-association" arrangement without published plans). The Opera House is an unsurpassed work of sculptures. Its shells are unsuited to the task. "You could argue that that it is [the] yawning gap between talk and truth that makes the Opera House so intensely Sydney." And she concludes provocatively: "But the question remains...Do we sign a blank cheque? Or do we allow the building its shortcomings, burn out the interiors and build a proper Opera House somewhere else - at Paul Keating's Barangaroo, perhaps?" [SMH] 
04 Jan Wendy Frew, in Opera House's Popular Summer Season Casts its Spell on Audiences, reports programming trends. Shows such as The Illusionists and Mirazozo re snaring a bigger share of the family entertainment dollar. Despite tourism pressures, guide tour number have increased 14 percent in a year. However, boosting programming into the family market, she writes, has led to some tension in festival and theatre ranks about [Opera House] incursions into these areas. [SMH]
26 Jan Richard Evans announces his resignation as CEO to take up an appointment as Managing Director of BridgeClimb, after leading changes at the House, including "a drive to broaden the Opera House audiences by programming family friendly and festival-like shows, a substantial overhaul of the environs and a $152 million project to improves access for vehicles and pedestrians." [SMH. See also SMH 24 February and 24-25 February].
09 Feb Steve Mesham, in From Message to Mainstream at the Opera House, reports the appointment of Rhoda Roberts as the first head of indigenous programming as the house launches its 13th annual Message Sticks Festival. [SMH]
12 Mar Sacha Molitorisz, in Opera House Treads the Smartboards in Class Excursions, reports on the launch of a digital education program, involving an interactive tour, drama exercises, live streaming of performances and interactive masterclasses. [SMH]
23 Mar Wendy Frew, in Persistence is Key to Task of Redefining Opera House's Role, interviews acting CEO Jonathon Bielski about the dramatic increase in the House's own programming, which now represents nearly half of all performances at the House. Challenges involve attracting overseas performers to Australia, producing popular shows that will keep the house pumping with people, and not stepping on the toes of resident companies. [SMH]
30 Jun Louise Herron appointed Chief Executive of the Sydney Opera House. Trust Chairman Kim Williams says, in Wendy Frew's Head of the House Wants You to Make it Your Own, says that Herron's priorities will be to build a sense of community around the house that embraces audiences, corporate sponsors, philanthropists and governments, propelling them all to raise funds for the estimated $! billion overhaul of the building. Ms Herron will take up her appointment on 6 August. [SMH]
10 Aug Sydney Symphony under the direction of conductor Simone Young and soprano Christine Brewer restages the program of the official opening in the Sydney Opera House concert hall in 1973. [Peter McCallum review, SMH 13 August 2012].
11 Aug Wendy Frew interviews Louise Herron in The New Head of the House about her legal, corporate and theatre experience and plans for the House. [SMH]
16 Oct Premier Barry O'Farrell officially renames the Opera Theatre the Joan Sutherland Theatre at a ceremony attended by Dame Joan's widower Richard Bonynge and other members of the family. 
22 Oct The Scottish Ten Project announces that it will digitally scan the Sydney Opera House in 3D as part of an international project to document and conserve culturally significant infrastructure. Scanning of the Opera House is scheduled for April 2013.
29 Oct Chris Johnson recalls the contribution of Charles Weatherburn (1916-2012) to the construction of the Sydney Opera House following the departure of Jørn Utzon in 1966. Weatherburn held the position of Government Architect 1974-1978. He recorded an interview in the Sydney Opera House oral history project for the Dennis Wolanski Library of the Performing Arts in the late 1980s.
22 Nov Louise Herron, in Opera House Chief Hoping For Gold At The End Of A Lottery Rainbow, suggests resurrecting the Opera House Lottery as a source of funding for future construction and maintenance work. [SMHerald].
  The Sydney Opera House and ABC Innovation launch a new online documentary, The Opera House Project (
28 Mar Architect Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, in a+u March 2013 Special issue, shares his experience of visiting Can Lis, Jørn Utzon’s house on Majorca, Spain, after the restoration by Danish architect Lise Juel. Source:
06 Apr

Louise Herron outlines her vision for the Opera House in Lady of the House by Rick Feneley [SMH]. She has ordered a master plan for all building works, drawing on all studies gathered during the past half-century as a guide to future refurbishment and maintenance programs, including development of the Joan Sutherland Theatre (Opera Theatre), replacement of stage machinery, and recruitment of 100 philanthropists.

May Scottish Ten Project scans the Opera House to create a detailed 3D image of the building, one of ten heritage sites to be scanned around the world. One of the anticipated primary uses of the data will be the creation of a Building Information Model by the House. The Opera House project involved 959 scans and generated 56,000 photos.
08 Aug Utzon Centre in Aalborg presents exhibition, curated by Henrik Godsk, to celebrate the work of Jørn Utzon on the Sydney Opera House. The exhibition includes original plans, drawings, sketches and models, some of which the Danish architect took with him when he quit the project in 1966. According to a report in the Brisbane Courier Mail, many of the plans were stored in the architect's attic before being bought by an unnamed university and include detailed plans he did before he left the Opera House. "At the time of construction some of the plans were thought lost or destroyed." The exhibition is scheduled to run until 17 January 2014, [Source Courier Mail Utzon Centre:]. News Corp Australia fleshes out the story on 4 October at
27 Sep The Chairman of the Sydney Opera House Trust, Kim Williams AM, announces his retirement from the position on 4 October 2013. He is succeeded by John Symond AM, whose term is scheduled to run until 31 December 2014.
02 Oct Elizabeth Farrelly, on the Arup blog space Thoughts, poses the question who really designs buildings? Although both engineers and architects regard the mysterious activity we call ‘design’ as their territory, she says it is generally only architects who get to be the rock stars. Such a split is "illusory and unhelpful." In the case of the Sydney Opera House, "Jørn Utzon and Ove Arup were probably equally essential to reifying the masterwork, and the quality of their engagement equally imaginative. Yet on the building’s designer label, the signature is unquestionably Utzon’s." The Sydney Opera House is beloved across the world for neither its acoustics nor its structure, but for its beauty. On a broader 21st century front, she says today’s great task is unifying technology and poetry in the interest of survival and, in many ways, engineers are the best-equipped profession for the task.
07 Oct Blaine Brownell, in A Design Icon 40 Years in the Making (Architect: the magazine of the American Institute of Architects), writes on plans to remodel the Opera Theatre based on an interview with Jan Utzon. It gives weight to the evolving myths about the building. A potted history is laced with factual errors and some questionable analysis. But it does underscore the proposition that the Opera House as a living building needing constant changes by many architects. "Like other historic, actively used monuments - Jan Utzon suggested the examples of St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City or La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona - the Sydney Opera House is in a continual state of becoming." []
10 Oct

The National Film and Sound Archive posts the 11-minute film Landmark to YouTube. Made by the Commonwealth Film Unit, this  film was produced in 1972 from historic and contemporary footage of the Sydney Opera House including footage of its complex construction and the site's previous use as a tram depot. It has a musical score but no narration. Source:

11 Oct

Blaine Brownell, in a companion piece, The Utzon Legacy, talks to Jan Utzon about the Sydney Opera House’s original design and construction and the experience of working with his father to guide the project’s future (Architect Magazine 11 October 2013). Jan recalls living in Australia between 1963 and 1966 and comments on steps taken after his father was re-commissioned to work on the Opera House in 1999. During the first phase of the re-engagement, he photographed and videotaped the Opera House inside and out and made up a list with his father of items that they felt were intruding upon the architecture of the building. After a set of design principles were drawn up, Jan’s role was to coordinate developments with Richard Johnson of Johnson Pilton Walker. A number of projects sprang out of this work. They refurbished the Reception Hall as the Utzon Room – the "only remaining, wholly Utzon-designed space" in the landmark structure. They redesigned the western broadwalk foyer (which had been initiated and designed by architect Leif Kristensen during the 1990s), opened up the wall of the foyer with windows, and attached an external colonnade. With construction underway on a tunnel entry for service vehicles underneath the forecourt, Jan also comments on plans, subject to funding, to refurbish the opera theatre -- its acoustics, the orchestra pit, its colours -- and to replace air-conditioning units. “My father rationalised that a building like the Sydney Opera House would necessarily be a composite of the ideas of many different people in its lifetime. He was very happy to have been its conceptual creator and the creator of the most important features of the Opera House.” As a working and living centre for the performing arts, it is “important that modifications be allowed to accommodate new ideas and new ways of performance, as well as new trends in society and the development of the use of the building over the years. Of course, considering the importance of the building itself in the City of Sydney, the Opera House has become a word heritage icon and must as such be treated with veneration to its original concepts. Therefore, it is important that present and future generations of users are respectful to, and considerate of, my father’s original concepts and the iconic value of the building as seen from outside Australia.” Source:

12 Oct

Architectural historian Philip Drew, in Performance Anxiety as the Sydney Opera House Turns 40, takes a look at the “radical miracle being wrought under the forecourt” - four new underground loading bays that will service the Opera House as the first instalment in more ambitious plans to renew the Opera Theatre.

Drew writes that Utzon’s design was a triumph of form over function and a curious mix of antiquarian and futurist elements: ancient Greek theatres implanted in an artificial hillside above which hovered thin white helmets of shell concrete. A hybrid compilation of exotic borrowings from Greek and Mayan history were fused with an essentially modern architectural sensibility. Designed from the outside to the inside, the Sydney Opera House is architecture in reverse. Nevertheless, it is a seductive sculpture.

Turning Utzon's fantasy into a functioning building has involved many individuals. Even before his departure, the early design was subject to constant revision. The recognition of people in solving and adding to Utzon's legacy is long overdue. The list includes the likes of Yuzo Mikami early on, and later Peter Hall, Andrew Andersons, Leif Kristensen, Jan Utzon and Richard Johnson. Each has made a valuable and important contribution. The process is ongoing. CEO Louise Herron says she is committed to ensuring only the best architects are used and the best plans are adopted by the end of 2015 to guide the sequence of work for the next 10 years.

Drew concludes that the Opera House has reached a crossroads where critical decisions affecting its future must be taken: whether to carry on as before, spending $12m or so annually on maintenance, or to rebuild the Opera Theatre to correct its manifest inadequacies and possibly do something to deal with deficiencies in the Concert Hall acoustics. Sydney could build a new opera theatre starting afresh, unconstrained by the limitations of the existing structure, that would surpass the existing theatre in terms of acoustics, audience experience, staging and access. The Opera House Trust would do well to remember the British Special Air Service motto, "who dares wins", in deciding to either play it safe and settle for a compromise solution or, as it did once before, risk all. Source:


16 Oct To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the building, The Australian publishes a timeline of significant architectural features and events of the “world’s most iconic building.” A notable omission is the work of architects and engineers other than Jørn Utzon, Jan Utzon and Richard Johnson. [
  Deloitte releases a report on the economic, cultural and digital value of the Sydney Opera House, partly based on a survey of over 3,000 Australian and international residents. Key findings: the Opera House is estimated to be worth $4.6 billion to Australia and contribute $775 million to the Australian economy each year. It supports 8,439 full-time equivalent jobs, directly and indirectly. In 2011/12 the venue attracted nearly 1.4 million people to more than 1,800 performances. More than half of surveyed tourists from China, the US, UK and New Zealand said the Opera House was their main reason for visiting the city. Australians view a visit to the Opera House as being more valuable than the cost of the ticket for the performance they attend. The Opera House has an online digital reach of 128 million people (93% from Facebook). Future viewings of online performances, it says, could grow to 94 million a year. [Source:].
17 Oct The Sydney Opera House screens the premiere of the remastered documentary film Autopsy on a Dream, which was originally commissioned at the BBC by David Attenborough. According to reports the ABC tried to stop the film being made and, after the BBC screened it in 1968, the film’s director John Weiley was advised it had been destroyed. For the remastered version, Weiley has created a prologue called The Dream of Perfection, which includes interviews with Sir David Attenborough, Jan and Lin Utzon, architect Richard le Plaistrier and others. Bob Ellis re-recorded his original narration. The remastered film was produced by John Maynard for Felix Media with the support of the BBC, Screen Australian and ABC Arts. The Wolanski family provided financial support for the restoration. It was broadcast for the the first time in Australia by the ABC on 20 October.
18 Oct Lin Utzon reflects on the impact of the Opera House in an article of the Sydney Morning Herald. “When my family and I arrived in Sydney in the early 1960s after a long and exotic trip around the world, it was like arriving back in a piece of England, with red brick houses, rose gardens, pubs and school uniforms. The population was trying to win the battle over the untameable Australian nature.” The Opera House changed “a whole nation's outlook and perception of itself…[It] signalled and caused a transformation in the consciousness of Australians, giving them a strong sense of place and pride and a celebration of their beautiful and wildly poetic country. The extraordinary process of the construction of the Opera House on Sydney Harbour and the polemics around it, deeply influenced and inspired Australian artists, who came into their own, working with the vitality and strength and originality of Australia.” [Source: Opera House: the House that Changed a Nation, Sydney Morning Herald]
  In a piece challenging the alleged transformative affect of another cultural centre in another city, Guy Horton for Arch Daily, assesses the impact of the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles after ten years of operation.”What would the city have been like if it had never been built? Would it be fundamentally different? The answer? No. Although the city has experienced a building renaissance, it can’t be attributed to Frank Gehry’s building, no matter how glaringly brilliant it is” Visionaries and investors should cease projecting the ability to transform the city onto singular iconic buildings, he writes, but, of course, this would run counter to the logic of culture anchoring development. “Buildings alone can’t do it, no matter how daring, novel (or expensive) the architecture.  []
20 Oct

To mark the 40th anniversary, the ABC publishes a timeline of significant moments in the history of the House from 1954 onwards, starting with the questionable assertion that Eugene Goossens persuaded Joseph Cahill Sydney needed an opera house. It concludes; “Through a combination of tourism, travel, hospitality and other activities, the Opera House is estimated to contribute more than $1 billion to the Australian economy. It stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th Century but in the history of humankind.It stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th Century but in the history of humankind.”

21 Oct Daryl Dellora, in an article drawn from his in book Utzon and the Sydney Opera House, writes in The Guardian that “If Jørn Utzon had been left to finish his masterpiece it would have been more beautiful, more functional and less costly. He says it is a scandalous myth that Utzon resigned because he did not know how to finish the Opera House. He compares Utzon’s plans for the Glass Walls unfavourably with Peter Hall’s solution. They had “little of the nuanced and delicate effect of Utzon's ideas. Utzon told Dellora that had he remained in Australia he would have finished the building within 18 months. “When he left the project many of his ideas for the interiors were well in hand, drawings existed, and some models had already been built and tested by plywood manufacturer Ralph Symonds.” Source: The Guardian 21 October 2013
22 Oct Monique Ross interviews performers on the magic and majesty of the Sydney Opera House, including singer-songwriter Katie Noonan, Michael Hohnen (Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu's collaborator), Brett Weymark (Musical Director to the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs), Colin Piper (Sydney Symphony percussionist), Michael Honeyman (Opera Australia principal singer), David Robertson (chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra), and singer-songwriter John Butler. Source
  Anthony Burke, Professor of Architecture at UTS, looks back at the construction of the building and the story of the man who designed it. He describes the Opera House as an evolving icon and writes that "The Opera House continues to evolve to meet the demands of contemporary audiences and performance. The last completed major work on the Opera House was the renovation and extension of the western foyer areas and the opening up of a drama theatre, playhouse and studio theatre under the main concert hall space. This elegant extension by Richard Johnson of architecture firm JPW was completed with close attention to Utzon's original approach to design, and has added enormously to the capacity of the Opera House to host a broad range of performance types and scales. Currently the Opera House is undergoing a major upgrade of loading areas, back of house facilities and mechanical systems lead by architect Scott Carver…It is important to recognise that the Sydney Opera House is still young, and as such it has only just begun to gather around it the stories that will colour its history. As each generation finds unique ways to make and remake the Sydney Opera House their own, we should imagine a long history of new lessons and new beginnings for this remarkable building.” Source: A Danish architect, an Australian icon: the history of the Sydney Opera House,
23 Oct Geraldine Chua, in her article Sydney Opera House Turns 40, focuses on costs and benefits. She draws on the Danish economic geographer Bent Flyvbjerg’s assessment that the cost blowout of 1400 per cent made the Opera House one of the most expensive cost blowouts in the history of megaprojects around the world, a situation caused, according to Flyvbjerg, by a low budget that “intentionally deceived lawmakers, the public and the media” to get the project started. She reports concerns about the expense and trouble of trying to improve the internal functions of the Opera House, quoting Sydney architect Ken Woolley who has argued that it would be cheaper to build a new opera house. Despite these hiccups and questions, Chua writes, the Opera House has undeniably entrenched itself as one of Australia’s most valuable national assets, which adds $775 million to the economy every year. After recalling the words of Paul Keating that in building the Opera House “the city got tapped on the shoulder by a rainbow”, she concludes the Opera House ”should never have been built as was proposed. Yet, she remains Australia’s most distinctive brand, albeit one that offers a lot of advice for the government and architects as they embark on new megaprojects”. Source:
25 Oct The exhibition Danish Design at the House, curated by Australian architect Gerard Reinmuth and Danish architect Karen Kjærgaard, is presented in the Western Foyer until 11 November. The exhibition is officially launched by the Danish Minister for Culture, Her Excellency Marianne Jelved. Special guests included the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark, Sydney Mayor Clover Moore, NSW Minister for the Arts George Souris, and Jørn Utzon’s son Jan and other members of his family. Source: Architectureau 29 October
25 Oct The Powerhouse Museum website draws attention to a portfolio of 178 Max Dupain gelatine silver prints of photographs originally owned by Peter Hall and acquired by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in 2005 and to a re-examination of Hall’s career in the revised edition of Building a Masterpiece: the Sydney Opera House, reissued by Powerhouse Publishing for the 40th anniversary. The portfolio of prints was donated to the Museum by ResMed. In the revised edition of the book, Anne Watson explores how Hall and his team grappled with solutions for the building. Source:
25 Oct Lizzie Porter in The Telegraph (London) lists “40 fascinating facts about the Sydney Opera House” including this questionable fact: “The architect Jorn Utzon was initially rejected by three judges in a 1956 competition to design the Sydney Opera House, but his entry was picked out by the fourth judge, renowned American architect Eero Saarinen, who declared it outstanding.” (Alternative possible versions have been published). And it includes this false fact: “The Sydney Opera House Trust took up communicating with Mr Utzon again in the late Nineties.” (There was regular communication between the Sydney Opera House and Mr Utzon from the 1970s onwards). Source:
26 Oct The ABC’s Anne Marie Nicholson recalls meeting Jorn Utzon in Majorca shortly after he was reinstated work on his unfinished masterpiece with his son Jan and Sydney architect Richard Johnson. “Of course when I left I thought they would call me back…I have the Opera House in my head like a composer has his symphony. He can at any time go into the symphony and hear it. And that is why I am relatively valuable." Source;
28 Oct The ABC reports on the gala event at the Sydney Opera House the previous evening, the culmination of celebrations marking the 40th anniversary. The bill included Australian artists Sarah Blasko, John Butler and Megan Washington. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra performed the work that opened the Opera House in 1973, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Around 5,000 people were in the audience for the concert on the Opera House forecourt, which also featured members of the Australian Ballet. Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark were the guests of honour, along with the family of Danish architect Jorn Utzon. The concert ended with a fireworks display. Source:

Alex Needham, fleshes out some of the details in his review for The Guardian. The concert opened with a traditional Aboriginal greeting, followed by a torrid dance track from Casey Donovan. Other performances included John Butler’s 12-minute guitar instrumental and “an amusingly spiky song about the opera house’s history from members of the Wharf Revue. Baz Luhrmann told the crowd that he got married in a specially constructed church on the Opera House stage by a stage manager who was dressed as a fairy. Princess Mary from Denmark, channelling Hans Christian Andersen, described the building as “an ugly duckling that turned into a swan”. Source:

01 Nov The Sydney Opera House appoints Anna Reid as marketing director, replacing chief marketing officer Victoria Doidge. Source:
02 Nov Michael Baume, in A Forgotten Hero (The Spectator), urges his readers to spare a thought for the real brains behind the Sydney Opera House - Ove Arup, "the man deliberately air-brushed out of existence as Danish mini-royals joined in the universal tribute to Utzon in commemorating the building’s 1973 official opening.” Without Ove Arup & Partners, there would be no Sydney Opera House. Arup’s appointment not only provided the gravitas that enabled the project to proceed, he gave respectability to Utzon’s absolute priority for the building to have "integrity", relegating to a subservient role the client’s top priorities of function and "economic viability". Arup protected Utzon from the increasingly impatient government. This protection, which had given Utzon a false sense of security in his pursuit of perfection, also involved concealing from the government what it belatedly acknowledged was "chaos" as Utzon’s "cavalier approach to costs began to cause endless friction between them". Their falling out had led to Utzon bricking up the connecting door between their site offices. Ignoring Arup’s direct contractual responsibility to the government, Utzon demanded that contact only be made through him. He also attempted to instruct an increasingly irritated Renshaw Labor government not to seek the information from consultants. When Arup then responded, as required, to governmental enquiries, Utzon complained to Ove: "Your lack of support and misleading information… to a great extent destroyed the architect’s position." Arup thus became the enemy in the Utzon lexicon as one of the philistines, forcing him out of his right to complete his masterpiece. While the building is is undeniably Utzon’s concept, it is Arup’s structure. Utzon’s resignation was shattering for Arup, who later wrote that his faith in Utzon had “been destroyed”. Evidence of Arup’s emotional dedication to the concept is in the three fruitless and expensive years spent searching for a way to build Utzon’s unbuildable self-supporting shells. According to Peter Jones’s biography of Ove Arup in 2006, the resolution of the roof problems with huge interlocking ribs (refined by Utzon’s imaginative change from his original free-form shells to the regularity of segments of a sphere) "secured Arup a place in architectural and engineering history". Source:
08 Nov Melbourne's Stokehouse crew is awarded the 10-year contract for the Sydney Opera House Bennelong restaurant. In the Sydney Morning Herald, Rick Feneley reports that Stokehouse pledges to make the restaurant a lot more affordable, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and for breakfast on the weekends – a  big shift from the existing fine-dining lessee, Guillaume at Bennelong. Guillaume Brahimi indicated during October, that he would not compete for the tender because of the stipulation for it to be developed as a café/bistro style restaurant, but later indicated he would be open to a return to the house if the stipulation were dropped (Australian Financial Review, 1 and 14 October). Chairman John Symond acknowledged there had been some dissent at board level about the philosophical shift, but he said awarding the contract was easily a majority decision. Fairfax Media understands the Opera House had been receiving about a third of the going market rate for rent for the site, but will achieve a market rate under the new deal. Source: In the previous month,
22 Nov The NSW Government announces the appointment of three new trustees to the Sydney Opera House for 3-year terms commencing on 1 January 2014: Brenna Hobson (Executive Director of Belvoir Theatre), Jillian Segal AM (director of ASX Limited, National Australia Bank, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Federal Remuneration Tribunal, Chair of the General Sir John Monash Foundation, and Deputy Chancellor of the University of NSW) and Phillip Wolanski AM (Managing Director of Denwol Group Pty Ltd).Source:
09 Dec The Sydney Opera House launches a fundraising campaign to enable people to buy a virtual tile from its tallest sail. The tiles are available at where owners will be able to rotate, pan and zoom through the building in 3D and upload a photo and a short message to share with friends. 125,000 tiles, available for a period of 10 years, area available as either ice tiles ($100) or snow tiles ($400). Money raised will be used alongside $13.7 million from the state government towards a master plan to take the Opera House into its next era. Funds will also be used to increase public access with more free events, digital innovation and education initiatives. Sources: Sydney Morning Herald and Mumbrella
11 Dec The article Chinese Colours and the Sydney Opera House (1956–1966): Jørn Utzon’s Reinterpretation of Traditional Chinese Architecture by Chiu Chen-Yu, Peter Myers and Philip Goad is published in in the Journal of Design History. It seeks to clarify Utzon’s artistic debt to China by closely examining his colour proposals for the Sydney Opera House, representing "a unique matrix of cultural dissemination and transformation between China, Scandinavia and Australia". Link:
27 Dec News Corp Australia reports that a lifetime black-listing of Jørn Utzon by colleagues in Denmark has been erased permanently from the record. Uzon's son, Jan, confirmed that his father was banned by the Danish Institute of Architects for what they said brought shame to the profession. "When he came back to Denmark in 1966 he was called to the Institute and told in no uncertain terms that his actions in Sydney were deplorable, the clients were always right, you can never leave a job and what he had done was damaging for the architecture profession and they would make sure that he would never get a public job in Denmark again which he never did." It was the ban that prompted Jørn to move to Mallorca in Spain. As an indication of how time changes perspectives, the Danish Architects Association awarding Jorn Utzon a medal of honour in 2006, two years before he died and the Association is “content to now declare there was no documentation of his black-listing…The memory of Jørn Utzon in this Association is positive.” Source:


1606-1956 | 1957-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2005 | 2006-2007 | 2008 | 2009-2010 | Top | 2014-


 About usWhat's new Site map | Searching  | Managing  | Learning  |  LibraryResearch 

  Contact us | Home  

© 2000-2015 The Wolanski Foundation Project

 Email web manager.  URL:

Page last updated: 2 February 2015