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 1

A MAGNIFICENT DOODLE

In 1957, it took three days to fly from London Heathrow to Sydney and cost £430 and 4 shillings sterling. The journey included refuelling stops in Zurich, Istanbul, Karachi, Calcutta, Singapore, Jakarta and Darwin. Communication by telephone was expensive, connections had to be booked in advance and the quality of line was variable. Urgent communication was generally by telex or telegram. Today we inhabit a world of instant communications, of faxes, mobile phones, e-mails and the internet: it is hard to recall the meaning of distance in the days before the jet plane took over the skies. An appreciation of just how far away Sydney seemed from Europe in the 1950s is important in understanding the difficulties that beset the design and construction of the Opera House. The complications of cultural differences, of communications, of professional procedures and the fact that the long-distance traveller was virtually incommunicado all played their part in the unfolding drama.

It was clearly unrealistic for many of the overseas entrants to the Opera House competition to visit the proposed site and the first time Jørn Utzon saw the New South Wales capital and Bennelong Point, the striking promontory selected for the building, was in July 1957, six months after it was announced that he had won the competition for the new building. Utzon had studied the qualities of the promontory from photographs and postcards. It is a mark of his genius that he so brilliantly interpreted the location, the light and the landscape with his sculptural forms.

On first seeing Bennelong Point, he exclaimed to a Sydney Morning Herald reporter, 'It's absolutely breathtaking. There's no opera site in the world to compare with it…this site is even more beautiful than in the photographs from which I worked.'

The selection of Bennelong Point for the future Sydney Opera House had

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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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