The Wolanski Foundation Project


Sydney Opera House Story: a chronology 1606 to date





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The Sydney Opera House Story: 1980-1989

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, 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-



David Block succeeds Sir Robert Norman as Chairman of the Trust



The Sydney Opera House annual report 1983 acknowledges two significant gifts in the financial year 1982/83 - Sir Eugene Goossens’ bust, a bronze sculpture by Peter Latona, commissioned by Sydney Symphony Orchestra 6.30 Committee for permanent exhibition in the Southern Foyer of the Concert Hall. and a porcelain bowl by Lin Utzon, exhibited at the Sydney Opera House, subsequently bought by an unknown aficionado and delivered as a gift to the Sydney Opera House.



Peter Myers and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects present an exhibition of Utzon’s designs for the Opera House forecourt and pedestrian and vehicular approaches (the Blue Book) in the Exhibition Hall.



Premier Neville Wran publicly invites Utzon to rebuild the SOH interiors on Channel 9’s Sunday program.



Music Room becomes the Playhouse for use primarily as a theatre. Seating capacity is reduced to 398 with a stage 12 metres wide, 5 metres deep and a proscenium height of 5.5 metres. 



Jørn Utzon rejects Trust invitation to participate in Sydney Opera House oral history project. However, he releases restrictions on his papers in the State Library of NSW. The Sydney Opera House Oral History Project, developed and managed by the Dennis Wolanski Library and funded by the Ladies Committee of the Sydney Opera House Appeal Fund, records nearly 50 interviews with architects, engineers, politicians, commentators and workers.


Rehearsal and Recording Studio becomes Broadwalk Studio for use as a hired and subsidised performance space for medium or small-scale companies and contemporary work with uncertain public appeal requiring small financial investment.


Neville Wran resigns as Premier of NSW and is replaced by Barrie Unsworth 4 July


A proposal for a NSW Performing Arts Museum is prepared by Paul Bentley following an approach by the Ministry for the Arts. A task force established by the Minister for the Arts, Frank Walker, adopts recommendations in December 1986 that are substantially based on the Trust’s submission, involving use of the the Maritime Services Board Building to store collections (the shop) and exhibition facilities at the Sydney Opera House (the shop window).



Sydney Opera House Major Maintenance Program launched as 10 year program with 650 projects relating to the structural and architectural fabric of the building, the services within the building and the technical stage services. The program is designed to redress rule of thumb calculation for general building maintenance expenditure and to raise the level to the more commercially acceptable level of maintenance funding of 1-2% of asset value.


Nick Greiner forms Coalition Government 25 March replacing Labor's Barrie Unsworth as Premier. Peter Collins becomes Minister for the Arts. 


Building of the Century Exhibition (curator Paul Bentley; designer Bill Passmore) opens in June 1988 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House. Runs until March 1989, attracting an attendance of 78,000 and stimulating donations of Sydney Opera House archival material to the Dennis Wolanski Library of the Performing Arts. In November, Paul Bentley submits a proposal for a permanent exhibition on the Sydney Opera House in the Exhibition Hall Foyer.  



Exhibition Building in the Gardens. In March, Architect Leif Kristensen submits proposals and drawings to the Trust for a museum and cafe in the gardens, adjacent to the Man O’ War steps to house a permanent exhibition on the history, design and construction of the House.


Broadwalk Studio becomes the Dennis Wolanski Library Archives of the Performing Arts in July, originally as a temporary measure to facilitate construction below the Exhibition Hall/Library space adjacent to the Playhouse and to provide on-site accommodation for Public Works Department during the major maintenance program. Other factors leading to the closure of the Broadwalk Studio as a performance venue were the significant level of subsidy required to make it viable as a performance space and its lack of compliance with new fire regulations.


Elizabeth Butcher succeeds David Block as Chairman.

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


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Page last updated: 26 April 2001