The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre in Sydney, Australia. It is one of the 20th century's most famous and distinctive buildings.
Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the building was formally opened on 20 October 1973 after a gestation beginning with Utzon's 1957 selection as winner of an international design competition. The government of New South Wales, led by the premier, Joseph Cahill, authorised work to begin in 1958 with Utzon directing construction. The government's decision to build Utzon's design is often overshadowed by circumstances that followed, including cost and scheduling overruns as well as the architect's ultimate resignation.
Though its name suggests a single venue, the building comprises multiple performance venues which together are among the busiest performing arts centres – hosting well over 1,500 performances annually, attended by more than 1.2 million people. Performances are presented by numerous performing artists, including four resident companies: Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. As one of the most popular visitor attractions in Australia, more than eight million people visit the site annually, and approximately 350,000 visitors take a guided tour of the building each year. The building is managed by the Sydney Opera House Trust, an agency of the New South Wales State Government.
The Sydney Opera House is Australia's most recognisable building and is an icon of Australia's creative and technical achievement. Since its completion in 1973 it has attracted worldwide acclaim for its design and construction, enhanced by its location on Bennelong Point within a superb harbour setting.
“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.” Expert evaluation report to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, 2007.
The design of the building, with its soaring white roof shell shaped sails atop a massive red granite platform, has been internationally acclaimed as an architectural icon of the 20th century. As a dominant sculptural building that can be seen and experienced from all sides, it is the focal point of Sydney Harbour and a reflection of its character.
It took 16 years to build. Constructed between 1957 and 1973, is a masterpiece of modern architectural design, engineering and construction technology in Australia. It exhibits the creative genius of its designer, the Pritzker Prize winner Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the successful engineering by the Danish firm Ove Arup and Partners, and the Australian building contractors M R Hornibrook. The completion of the project was overseen by the architects Hall, Todd and Littlemore, and the story of its construction was one of great controversy.
Complex engineering problems and escalating costs made it a source of great public debate that only subsided when the beauty and achievement of the completed building placed it on the world stage.
The technical challenge of how to construct the roof sails took four years to solve. The roof sails were based on the geometry of the sphere and Utzon used this to demonstrate the creative potential and the assembly of prefabricated, repeated components. It was seen as a structure at the leading edge of endeavour.
Today the Sydney Opera House is a national cultural centre that has gained widespread recognition and respect as a performing arts venue, and includes a concert hall, opera and drama theatres, a playhouse and a studio. It is a fitting showcase for many of the world's leading performers. As Utzon envisioned, the Sydney Opera House reflects its pivotal place in Australia's creative history ‘an individual face for Australia in the world of art' (Frampton and Cava, 1995 in Statement of Values for Sydney Opera House National Heritage Listing)
On 28 June 2007, the Sydney Opera House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site