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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Sydney Opera House - 1106 words
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Sydney Opera House: Jorn Utzon- 1957.Ask almost anybody anywhere in the world to suggest something they associated with Sydney and the answer is likely to be the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Without doubt the two landmarks, in many people's minds, define and epitomize Sydney. It is fair to suggest in fact that the harbour area of Sydney defines what would otherwise be a rather homogenous, dense, European type city. Devoid of the harbour area, what remains of the 4700 or so square miles of the city is a fairly generic and mediocre clutter of high rise building in the centre surrounded by a suburban sprawl as far as the eye can see. "On the ground what strikes the visitor is the dullness of the architecture..bereft of its harbour, Sydney would be no more interesting than Finchley." It is astounding that the only piece of architecture which has managed to live up and respond to its fantastic natural setting is Utzon's Opera House. Flawed though it undoubtedly is, the beautifully tiled vaults and complex monumental base next to the botanical gardens has remained unchallenged in almost half a century of supposed architectural development and advances.
What is it about Jorn Utzon's building which has stood the test of time in the fickle world of architecture, securing its place as one of the defining public buildings of the 20th century?The urban myths surrounding the Sydney Opera House are almost as well known as the finished article itself. Throughout the architectural world the story of Utzon and the beleaguered Opera house is something of architectural legend. A world wide competition was launched in December 1955 by the State Government of New South Wales for a Performing Arts Centre. A tempting brief with a generous timetable, open criteria and the spectacular and historically resonant site of Bennelong Point enticed over 930 architects to register and produced nearly 250 competition entries. The emerging victor was a relatively young Danish Architect Jorn Utzon. Irrespective of the truth in the romantic tale of Utzon's fairly sketchy entry being rescued from a pile of discarded submissions by competition judge Eero Saarinen, arriving a day and a half late, the assessors' final statement was unanimously in favour
'Utzon's drawings submitted for this scheme simple to the point of being diagrammatic..we are convinced that they present a concept for the Opera House which is capable of becoming one of the greatest buildings of the world.'Of course Utzon's designs were not unanimously admired by the media or his peers. The brave new forms, loved or hated, were the centre of much attention as newspaper letters pages were full with people fraught with horror or pleasure- 'ships in full sail', 'a flock of white gulls', 'disintegrating circus tent in a gale', 'a sink with plates stacked in readiness for washing' were some more lucid analogies produced. In the profession Siegfried Giegion marked Utzon as the Leader of the Third Generation of Architects; Frank Lloyd-Wright simply considered it inorganic fantasy which confirmed the folly of competitions and whilst visiting Mies Van de Rohe in Chicago, the Master turned his back and refused to speak to Utzon. This is not to mention the hostility shown by many Australian Architects who resented Utzon, a young foreigner, for getting Australia's plum commission.Utzon's concept constituted two main parts. A large dense slab jutting out into the harbour on which the lighter shell forms delicately perched.
When coming up with the concept for his Opera House submission, Utzon amongst other things, studied Greek amphitheatres in great detail. These ancient Greek theatres were carved into the rock rather than being built from the ground up. Utzon's design called for a run of steps almost a hundred metres wide which were to look as if hewn from stone. The construction of the huge artificial plinth began in earnest before the huge engineering problem presented by the shell structures had even been resolved. Over 30,000 cubic metres of rock and rubble had to be removed to replace real land with Utzon's man made peninsula.
The plinth was split into two levels. A harbour-side caf'e a restaurant level was combined with a vehicular concourse underneath the main pedestrian 'slab.' This allowed Utzon to continue the massive carved rock theme of the plinth. He insisted the main terraces were completely flat and that drainage was achieved through small gaps in the paving rather than having to accept a slope. The continuity of materials, the lack of clutter and Utzon's attention to detail means the plinth is unquestionably successful in creating a sense of mass, space and permanence. "The flatness of Utzon's platform is certainly astonishing and absolutely modern in its reinterpretation of an archaic idea." Figure 1.
Slab like quality of plinth. Photograph; R. WestonThere are many theories as to what inspired Utzon's daring forms. At various times the roof form (or fifth facade as Utzon described it), has been likened to, and suggested that Utzon was inspired by; clouds, waves, ships sails, parabolas formed by bending sticks and leaves. It is impossible to confirm what Utzon was actually inspired by but it is likely that it was a variety of influences. Utzon was familiar with the Sung building manuals of Ying Tsao Fah Shih which saw the earth as square and the sky as round and this is acknowledged as a great influence.
One of the greatest successes of the Sydney Opera House is undoubtedly the arresting roof shells. Originally Jorn Utzon's competition submission showed organic shells constructed from 5cm thick concrete cast on site, with pure white exterior and a gilded underside, the experience was to likened to that of entering a mosque with the smooth vaulting and shimmering gilt surfaces. Figure 2. Utzon's original competition entry. J.
UtzonUtzon, very much of European work ethic, designed alongside engineers and contractors, almost unheard of in Australia where the Architect would come up with the drawing first and then hand them over to the tender. From the outset of the design process, Utzon was linked to British based engineer Ove Arup, well known for his desire to work alongside architects to make their seemingly impossible concepts tangible. Almost instantly Arup broke the news to Utzon that his structure was not possible in the way the Dane had perceived, and that a much larger structure would be necessary. Unperturbed, Utzon approached the problem from a different angle. Rather than his original monolithic parabolic shells he developed the forms so that they could all be formed from parts of the same hemisphere cutting down on the complexity of the geometry. This also had the additional benefit of meanin ...
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