Sydney Opera House

Bennelong Point, Sydney, Australia

Big image

Architect & Philosophy

Jørn Utzon

Jorn Utzon was born on April 9th, 1918, and died in the year 2008. Utzon was born in Copenhagen, Aalborg. His father was a naval architect, engineer and director of a local shipyard. Utzon first intended to become a naval engineer like his father, but instead studied architecture at the Copenhagen Royal Academy of the Arts. Shortly after his graduation, he worked in Finland and traveled in USA and Mexico, where he met several architects who inspired his works. Utzon was relatively unknown until he won the competition for the design of an opera house in Sydney. His designs were said to be outstanding and innovative. The path in creating the design was rough, but well-rewarding. The Sydney Opera House became one of Australia's most famous architecture, and Utzon received many other projects soon after. Jorn Utzon died in his sleep on November 29 at the age of 90, in Copenhagen.


“Controlling the triumph of homegrown mediocrity over foreign genius."


  • Inspired by the horizontal structural planes of mayan pyramids
  • Additive architecture: natural growth principle in nature (shapes should not be identical)
  • “Shells” enclosed with glass walls based on the folds of a bird’s wing
  • Traces of his previous endeavours in the navy is evident in the building’s design
  • Relationship between surrounding environment and architectural structure



'Lying on a beach in Hawaii, Utzon says to Jack Zunz [deputy engineer on the project] that he doesn't care if the Opera House is never finished – he has already solved the problems and can see a completed building in his head.''

Design & Purpose

Key Features

Key Materials

  • Concrete - shells, and vaulted ribs
  • Red granite
  • Laminated glass
  • Glazed ceramic tiles
  • Steel, epoxy resin, tendon

Comments & Criticism


'Utzon made a building well ahead of its time, far ahead of available technology, he preserved through extraordinary malicious criticism to a building that changed the image of an entire country. It is the first time in our life time that such an epic piece of architecture gained such universal presence.'

-Frank Gehry, 2003


'The sun did not know how beautiful its light was, until it was reflected off this building.

- Louis Kahn, 2002


‘From the point of view of science, the Opera House embodies within its structure the integration of sophisticated geometry, technology and art. It epitomizes the extraordinary creative potential of the assembly of prefabricated, repeated components.’

-Norberg-Schulz, 1996


The Sydney Opera House reflects its pivotal place in Australia's creative history, it is ‘an individual face for Australia in the world of art.'

- Frampton and Cava, 1995


'No, no don't do that because it is perfect, actually it is almost too perfect.'

- Jørn Utzon, 1965