Growing up in Sydney, I didn’t give much thought to the Sydney Opera House, which today of course is one of the world’s most iconic buildings. To me, it’s something that’s just always been there, as it opened the year before I was born. I used to be one of those little ‘pests’ that would ride my skateboard up and down its embankments in my teens. Much later, however, I began to look at this sail-like structure a little differently.
I attended a few concerts there, from rock (Crowded House’s final gig in 1996) to classical and just recently, upon returning from a trip to Cockatoo Island, I spied its ten pale beaks beaming across the harbour beneath a somber sky. It was quite a sight. I began to think that despite being perhaps the most conspicuous building on the planet, the Opera House is a curious structure – beautiful in its own way – that has quite a history.
It’s been called many things, from the derisive “hunchback of Bennelong Point” during its construction (when it was considered a white elephant), to the more jovial “nuns in a scrum” it’s sometimes referred to as today.
Here’s 10 facts you might not know about the Sydney Opera House:
• Danish architect Jorn Utzon was rejected by three out of four judges in a competition to design the structure in 1956. The fourth judge chose his entry out of 232 others and deemed it ‘outstanding’.
• Mr Utzon never stepped foot inside the completed structure and never saw it finished.
• In the 1980s, a net was placed above the orchestra pit after a chicken walked offstage during a performance and landed on a cellist.
• Its ‘sails’ were built in France with specially designed cranes.
• The Concert Hall’s Grand Organ is the largest mechanical version of its kind in the world. It has 10,154 pipes and took 10 years to build.
• The roof is made with 2,194 pre-cast concrete sections. Each of these sections, which weigh up to 15 tonnes, are held together with 350 km of tensioned steel cable.
• Arnold Schwarzenegger won his last Mr Olympia bodybuilding title here in 1980.
• The building’s glass, which takes up 6,225 square metres, was built in France and is unique to its structure.
• It contains 1,000 rooms (oooh, how I’d like to explore them all).
• The Queen has visited the Sydney Opera House four times.
Have you been inside the Sydney Opera House? What was your experience like?