The Saga of the Sydney Opera House: The Dramatic Story of the Design and Construction of the Icon of Modern Australia

By Peter Murray | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

COLLABORATION AND CREATIVITY

On his return journey from Sydney in March and April 1958, Utzon stopped off to visit China, Japan and Nepal, despite the enormous amount of work to be done on the podium. This was the first of a series of absences by Utzon at critical junctures in the programme. Later, when he moved to Australia, he closed his office down for three months and went travelling. Arups were unable to contact him and were forced to make a number of design decisions without Utzon's input. This was to have a significant effect on Utzon's relationship with his engineers.

However, in 1958 Ove Arup was still able to treat such incidents light-heartedly. When Utzon returned to Hellebaek, he wrote, 'It was nice to hear from you. I really thought you were lost in the wilds of Asia.'

For the next four years, the two men-and their teams-enjoyed a collaboration that was remarkable in its fruitfulness and, despite many traumas, was seen by most of those involved as a high point of architect/engineer collaboration.

The partner responsible for the project was Ronald Jenkins, although Arup, because of his Danish connections, was closely involved in the development of the designs.

Jenkins-whose initials, felicitously for an engineer, were RSJ-was a brilliant mathematician. Shy and socially diffident, he provided the hard detail that supported Arup's broadbrush philosophical approach. When Arup set up his firm of consulting engineers in 1946, Jenkins joined him becoming a senior partner in 1949. His major projects prior to the Opera House were the Brynmawr Rubber Company Factory, Hunstanton School-the seminal brutalist building by Alison and Peter Smithson-and a timber, hyperbolic paraboloid roof at Market Drayton. Peter Rice described him as 'an engineer whose mathematical

-23-

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The Saga of the Sydney Opera House: The Dramatic Story of the Design and Construction of the Icon of Modern Australia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Dramatis Personae ix
  • Important Dates xii
  • Introduction xv
  • Chapter 1 - A Magnificent Doodle 1
  • Chapter 2 - Collaboration and Creativity 23
  • Chapter 3 - The Move to Sydney 39
  • Chapter 4 - A Quart into a Pint Pot 52
  • Chapter 5 - The Turn of the Screw 72
  • Chapter 6 - 'You Have Forced Me to Leave' 92
  • Chapter 7 - The Aftermath 115
  • Chapter 8 - Ars Longa, Vita Brevis 136
  • Bibliography 157
  • Index 160
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