10 Things You May Not Know about Sydney Opera House
Together with Harbor Bridge, the Sydney Opera House is indisputably one of the most iconic Australian buildings and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the entire world.
But how many of us know all its secrets? How many Sydneysiders walk by it every day without giving even a thought to the building’s history?
1. It is located on an old fort
The Sydney Opera House is standing on what was once a fort: Fort Macquarie, named after the New South Wales Governor at the time.
The fort was built in the 1820s and demolished in 1958. The location is known as Bennelong Point – a rockfish island that takes its name after Woollarawarre Bennelong, the first Indigenous Australian to have visited Europe. Governor Arthur Philip’s interpreter, he convinced the latter to build a brick hut for him on the island and to give the point its name.
2. Initial estimations were repeatedly exceeded
Money-wise, the initial estimations put the cost of building the Opera House at around $7 million. As for the time, four years were supposed to suffice. In fact, the total costs for building the Sydney Opera House went up to $102 million and the whole construction process took 14 years.
3. It was built with lottery money
Given the unfortunate miscalculations, a State lottery was organized to raise the necessary funds to continue the project. A total of 496 draws were held until the grand opening officiated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.
As you can see, the Australians’ love affair with having a flutter started quite early in the history of this young nation, before anyone had even heard of Powerball, Oz, Monday, Wednesday or Saturday Lotto. Now you can play all these lotteries online, but back in history, the lottery had a totally different face.
4. Its size is often misjudged
Home to the largest mechanical organ in the world with 10,154 pipes, the Sydney Opera House may seem huge. And it is! It is even bigger than it looks! Sprawling on 5.8-hectares, the Sydney Opera House site is big enough to fit in seven A380 airliners.
5. One day we might be able to spend the night
A proposal submitted last year spoke about allowing up to two-nights accommodation in the Sydney Opera House for 100 guests in a year. And if you are thinking about a hotel being opened inside this iconic landmark, you are wrong: we are talking about sleep-overs. Guests would be allowed to stay in certain locations now occupied by offices.
6. The building is heated and cooled using seawater
Did you know that when the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is playing here, the inside temperature must be of exactly 22.5 degrees? Summer or winter, the Sydney Opera House manages to do exactly that using seawater from the harbor.
7. Architect John Utzon almost didn’t get the project
At the moment, John Utzon is one of the best-known architects in the entire world precisely because of the Sydney Opera House. But one less known fact about him is that he almost missed the project. In 1956, there was a competition to determine the architect of the Opera House project in Sydney, but Mr. Utzon’s project was rejected by 3 out of the 4 judges. It was the fourth judge, world-famous architect Eero Saarinen, who went above and beyond for John Utzon to be granted the project. Eventually, he beat as many as 232 other participants.
8. John Utzon was not there for the entire duration of the project
While this was the defining moment in his career, Mr. Utzon resigned as chief architect in 1966 due to payment issues. Not even public protests managed to bring him back, as he decided to leave Australia altogether that year. Then, in 1973, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of Architects of Australia on the inauguration of the building. However, he was not present at the ceremony. It wasn’t until the 90’s that he came back to the Sydney Opera House project, but he signed on as a digital consultant for the building.
9. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site
In 2007, the Sydney Opera House finally got the recognition it so greatly deserved and it was included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It was described as a “great urban sculpture set in a remarkable waterscape”. This architectural masterpiece gets millions of visitors every year and it is one of the most impressive public buildings in the entire world.
10. Arnold Schwarzenegger won his final bodybuilding title here
Long before Arnold Schwarzenegger became Terminator or the Governor of California, US, he was one of the greatest bodybuilders in the world. He won hid final medal for bodybuilding in 1980 and the competition was held in the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House.
Have you ever been to the Sydney Opera House?