The Wolanski Foundation Project


Sydney Opera House Story: a chronology 1606 to date





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The Sydney Opera House Story: 1990-1999

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-



McKinsey & Company present report, commissioned on a pro bono basis by the Sydney Opera House Trust, on the feasibility of establishing a performing arts museum in Sydney (27 February).



Performing Arts Information, Collection and Exhibition Services in NSW: A Development and Operations Plan, prepared by Janine Schmidt (State Library of NSW), Louise Douglas (Powerhouse Museum) and Paul Bentley (Sydney Opera House Trust), is submitted to Ministry for the Arts in January.



TheatreWorks, with the support of the Minister for the Arts, Peter Collins, emerges as a solution to provide the House with a permanent daytime attraction and source of revenue, following submission of a Performing Arts Museum Management Plan by Paul Bentley in February, with recommendations on significant changes to the scope of the collection, a focus on documentation activities, the transfer of archival materials to other collections and a name change to the Dennis Wolanski Library of the Performing Arts. Subsequently, Paul Bentley and Leif Kristensen complete  Report on Museum and Exhibition Facilities in London, Seville and Paris and Recommendations for the Development of a Performing Arts Museum at the Sydney Opera House in December.



Interim Sydney Opera House Conservation Plan for the Sydney Opera House published as a step towards a more coherent approach to the conservation of the building


Lin Utzon unveils a bronze plaque to honour her father’s achievement in March. Set at the podium level on the ceremonial stairs, and in accordance with Jørn Utzon’s wishes, it illustrates his spherical solution.


Stage 3 architects, Peter Hall, David Littlemore and Lionel Todd, are commemorated in an inscription on the granite beside the main entrance leading from the concourse.


Underground car park, built and operated by Enacon Parking Pty Ltd, is opened in the Royal Botanical Gardens adjacent to Sydney Opera House, as the first circular underground station of its type in the world. The car park is the culmination of various proposals to solve the transportation problem, beginning with Utzon’s Blue Book proposal, use of the Sydney Opera House forecourt as a car park, and operation of a bus park and ride service form the Domain Parking Station to Bennelong Point.



Sydney Opera House Travelling Exhibition, produced by Paul Bentley, opens in January at the Australian Embassy Paris to celebrate Australia Day. The exhibition is subsequently presented at the Rome Opera House, Cologne Olivandenhof, Amagasaki Cultural Centre in Japan, Seoul Cultural Centre in South Korea and Kennedy Center’s Festival Australia, Washington DC.


NSW Government approves triennial funding of $7.1 million for TheatreWorks Dennis Wolanski Library, Concert Hall Anteroom and new Broadwalk Foyer from July 1994. 


Report on Visit to the United States, encompassing cultural and museum sites in San Francisco, Washington, New York, St Louis and Atlanta, completed by Paul Bentley in October to inform work on the design and management of TheatreWorks.


Unseen Utzon exhibition presented jointly by the Sydney Opera House Trust and the State Library of NSW in the Exhibition Hall from November 1994 until March 1995. It includes a computer animated simulation of Utzon’s ideas for the major and minor halls, based on the work of architectural student Philip Nobis. Exhibition credits: John Murphy (curator), Phil Verner (design coordinator), Paul Bentley (operations coordinator) and Philip Nobis (consultant). Prompted by publicity from the exhibition, Jørn Utzon donates a 1965 architectural model of his proposals for the major hall, which is presented to the Trust by Lin Utzon. The exhibition also stimulates conservation work, 1993-1999, on the Utzon collection in the State Library of NSW, with supplementary funding from the NSW Government and the SOH Ladies Committee of the Sydney Opera House Appeal Fund.



TheatreWorks construction stopped by the Labor Government, on winning office in March 1995, because of its commitment to using the space for performances, particularly contemporary music


World premier of The Eight Wonder, an opera about the Sydney Opera House saga, composed by Alan John, libretto by Dennis Watkins, presented by the Australian Opera on October 14.


Joe Skrzynski succeeds Elizabeth Butcher as Chairman on 21 December.  



Sydney Opera House Conservation Council established as a body to provide advice on the care, control and maintenance of the building. Membership includes a SOH trustee, SOH general manager, Government Architect, an eminent architect, and eminent engineer from private practice or academia, a nominee of the Ministry for the Arts and a member of SOH executive with responsibilities for the building. The first meeting is 24 March 1996.


Nomination of Sydney Opera House for listing by World Heritage Committee, after three years development, completed and forwarded to the Prime Minister in anticipation of formal submission to UNESCO in Paris. The Federal Government decides not to proceed with the application.


Sydney Opera House Trust closes Dennis Wolanski Library of the Performing Arts in November and its collections are dispersed to 15 other organisations in Australia over the ensuing ten months to September 1997 



Lloyd Martin retires as General Manager and Tim Jacobs takes up appointment as Chief Executive Officer to implement ‘generational change’ at the Opera House. Jacobs resigns 23 February 1998, after 11 months in the job to take up the appointment of Chief Executive of the Victorian Arts Centre  


Exhibition Hall converted to office accommodation for Theatre Department and other administrative staff, after plans to return library to its previous location on a smaller scale are rejected by the Sydney Opera House Trust in May.


Sydney Opera House Masterplan ">prepared by the Government Architect’s Office in October 1997. Includes proposed work valued at $32.5 million. Subsequently architects Denton Corker Marshall, led by Richard Johnson, are appointed to review the plan and develop architectural principles to guide future development work. 



Michael Lynch takes up appointment as Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Opera House on 1 July.


Utzon Foundation. Sydney Opera House Trust establishes the Utzon Foundation 'to mark the building’s 25th birthday and acknowledge the creative genius of Jorn Utzon’ by providing a biennial international prize to recognize creativity and excellence in the performing arts.



Broadwalk Studio becomes The Studio. Designed by architect Lief Kristensen, the Studio, based on earlier plans for TheatreWorks, Western Broadwalk Foyer, Concert Hall Assembly Area and Conductors’ and soloists suites, the Studio opens 4 March to “encourage the development of emerging artists and artforms and provide an opportunity to forge stronger links with the industry”.


Utzon re-engaged by the Sydney Opera House Trust to develop a set of design principles for use as a guiding reference point in all future development of the building. In a later article about the venture (The Australian 6-7 May 2000) Utzon expresses the view that conversion of the main hall for opera and new glass walls are not feasible. He proposes that the adjacent East Circular Quay buildings (called the Toaster) be levelled and replaced by a low-rise annex for Opera House offices, workshops and storage.

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


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Page last updated: 26 April 2001