Eugene Goossens and Jorn Utzon -

Go to content

Main menu

Eugene Goossens and Jorn Utzon

The Opera House
Eugene Goossens

The city of Sydney was built in a natural bay called Port Jackson. Port Jackson includes Sydney Harbor and Sydney Cove. On the southern edge of Sydney Cove is a jut of land called Bennelong Point. In the mid-1950s, Bennelong Point was chosen as the site of the city’s new performing arts center, the Sydney Opera House. Planning and construction of the opera house took almost twenty years. The director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens, first suggested the project. Goossens wanted a place that would draw all kinds of people to hear classical music. Other leaders in Sydney agreed. Joseph Cahill, the premier (political leader) of NSW, also wanted to bring an important architectural project to Sydney. In January 1956, Cahill announced a contest.

Architects from around the world were invited to submit plans for the new opera house. The contest announcement included a twenty-five-page book describing the features the opera house should include. Four famous architects were brought in as judges. The judging committee received more than two hundred plans from architects in thirty-two countries. In January 1957, the judges chose a Danish architect named Jorn Utzon as the winner. Utzon was surprised by the news. His drawings had been very simple. They did not follow all the rules described in the contest book. But the judges liked his unique concept. Utzon moved to Sydney to begin work on the project. Utzon’s design began with a raised platform called a podium.

Jorn Utzon

A group of buildings would sit on top of the podium. The podium would house all the workings of the performance center. This included dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, and storage. One of the two largest buildings would contain a combined opera house and concert hall. The other would be a separate theater for plays. The roofs of the buildings were designed as a series of very large shapes. These curved structures would be covered in white tiles to resemble the sails of a ship. The roofs would show Sydney’s connection to the sea. An engineering firm, Ove Arup and Partners, was hired to translate Utzon’s design into a building plan.

Back to content | Back to main menu