Sydney Opera House and more
This is going to be a long post.
After a change of pace and atmosphere, I arrived to the city side of Australia – Sydney. Sydney is a metropolis city, quite similar to Toronto. The city is very multicultural and is indeed a financial hub on the Oceanic continent. Sydney is also the state capital of New South Wales and has the highest population in Australia.
I stayed at a family friend’s house in Sydney for the next four days. On my first day, I took the Skytrain out to the central business district (“CBD”). On my train ride to the CBD, I was able to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
I joined their local free walking tour called “I’m Free” walking tours. The tour guide was very helpful in explaining the history and formation of Sydney, leading us to important buildings and giving us valuable information about the Sydney Opera House.
The history of Sydney is quite long which I will suggest you to refer to Wikipedia. However, the basic simple history of Sydney originated from the establishment as a penal colony, which was known as the exile of convicts and prisoners from the UK. Due to its prime location as a great harbor, Governor Macquarie foresaw the potential of Sydney and requested additional funding from central UK to expand the city and to attract settlers. During Macquarie’s tenure as governor, he was able to lay down the basic infrastructure of Sydney, including the construction of roads, bridges, a rum hospital etc.
So what is a rum hospital? Well, during Macquarie’s tenure, UK did not really want to provide Macquarie too much funding because the city was after all a penal colony. In order to build a hospital, Macquarie struck a deal with rum businessmen. Macquarie granted the businessmen rum license to import thousands of gallons of rum to Sydney, in exchange for labour and supplies. Although, the hospital now has been largely re-constructed, this is how it looks like now.
Most of the buildings back in the days were designed by a man named Francis Greenway. He was pretty much the only convict in Sydney that was an architect. As such, he designed most of the buildings, notably the government house and St. James’ Church.
The eastern part of the CBD is a large public park called the Hyde Park. It is named after the Hyde Park located in London, U.K. It is a well-kept garden and often used as a place to display art exhibitions.
Due to the long history of rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, this is the reason why neither Sydney, nor Melbourne was chosen as the capital of Australia. The government had to create a new city called Canberra that is almost exactly in equal distance from Sydney and Melbourne in order to end the debate.
Below are some interesting pictures that I took during my walking tour in Sydney.
The Sydney birdcage street was created in 2009 when artist Michael Thomas Hill created birdcages suspended in the air to mimic the birds that once lived in central Sydney. The artwork was initially temporary, however due to its popularity, local residents requested the art to remain as a permanent public installation.
Of course, we ended our walking tour in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was constructed in 1932 to bridge between the CBD and the North Shore. The nickname of the bridge is called a "Coathanger". Currently the bridge serves as an iconic symbol of Sydney. It is currently the tallest steel arch bridge in the world, measuring 134 metres from the top to the sea level. You can actually pay $250-$300 to climb up the Sydney Habour Bridge. Although I did not have the chance to do it, the sunset view from the top of the bridge is supposed to be gorgeous.
After admiring the grand structure of the Sydney Habour Bridge, I can’t help but to also admire another Sydney icon on the other side of the river – the Sydney Opera House.
The Sydney Opera House is just as beautiful as the Sydney Habour Bridge. After learning about the construction process, I have an even greater respect with this marvelous structure. Before I walked towards the other side of the harbor, I allowed myself to take multiple selfies with this building.
As I walked closer to the Sydney Opera House, I could already sense the intricate and sheer brilliance of the architectural design of this building.
I signed up with the official guide of Sydney Opera House to tour around inside and to learn about the history of it. The Sydney Opera House started its construction in 1958 and was formally completed in 1973. The idea of constructing an opera house stemmed from the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. In 1956, Melbourne just hosted the Summer Olympics. As such, Melbourne caught the attention of the world. In order to be recognized as the “better” city, Sydney decided to build a world-class opera house.
The government opened up the design of the opera house as a world competition, and invited world renowned architects to participate. The selection committee (comprised of 3 people) received approximately 233 submissions. Two of the three judges from the committee went through the initial pile and selected top 3 submissions. The last judge Eero Saarinen, who arrived late, screened through the 3 submissions and said “Gentlemen, these submissions are great, but they are not the greatest. We need to find a world-class structure that can represent Sydney. Let’s go through the rejection pile again.” As such, all 3 judges went through the pile again. When Saarinen saw the concept design from entry number 218, he pulled out the design, showed it to the 2 other judges and said “Gentlemen, this is your opera house.”
The designer of entry number 218 is by the name of Jorn Utzon, a Danish architect. The exterior of the Sydney Opera House features a modern expressionist design. Unfortunately, the submission was only a concept design and no one knew exactly how the construction and foundation would work. Utzon was invited to supervise the construction project.
Although the construction of the foundation of Sydney Opera House was substantially completed by 1961, no one knew exactly how to build the roof of the building, not even Utzon himself. Until mid-1961, when Utzon had a eureka moment to support the roof top by cutting shells as sections from a sphere, known as the “Spherical Solution”. This allows arches of varying length to be casted in a mould, and the arch segments can be aligned perfectly adjacent to each other to form a spherical section, hence supporting the roof.
You can see the interior arches on the right and the outer look on the left.
Unfortunately, since the construction went over the planned budget, Uzton was forced to resign when the new elected party took over the government. The government employed another architectural firm to complete the building, supposing at a lower cost. Nonetheless, the project at the end was more than 14 times over the budget. On a sad note, Uzton, even after his death, never visited the completed Opera House.
Currently, Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue arts centre that presents musicals, plays, operas and concerts. It is also the home to key resident companies including the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Below are pictures of the interior.