Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House at night (Hai Linh Truong/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)).

New South Wales
S33 51 24 E151 12 55
Date of Inscription: 2007
Criteria: (i)
Property : 5.8 ha
Buffer zone: 438.1 ha
Ref: 166rev

Inaugurated in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is a great architectural work of the 20th century that brings together multiple strands of creativity and innovation in both architectural form and structural design. A great urban sculpture set in a remarkable waterscape, at the tip of a peninsula projecting into Sydney Harbour, the building has had an enduring influence on architecture. The Sydney Opera House comprises three groups of interlocking vaulted ‘shells’ which roof two main performance halls and a restaurant. These shell-structures are set upon a vast platform and are surrounded by terrace areas that function as pedestrian concourses. In 1957, when the project of the Sydney Opera House was awarded by an international jury to Danish architect Jørn Utzon, it marked a radically new approach to construction.

The concert hall (Essentimental/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The Sydney Opera House constitutes a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. Its significance is based on its unparalleled design and construction; its exceptional engineering achievements and technological innovation and its position as a world-famous icon of architecture. It is a daring and visionary experiment that has had an enduring influence on the emergent architecture of the late 20th century. Utzon’s original design concept and his unique approach to building gave impetus to a collective creativity of architects, engineers and builders. Ove Arup’s engineering achievements helped make Utzon’s vision a reality. The design represents an extraordinary interpretation and response to the setting in Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Opera House is also of outstanding universal value for its achievements in structural engineering and building technology. The building is a great artistic monument and an icon, accessible to society at large.

Criterion (i): The Sydney Opera House is a great architectural work of the 20th century. It represents multiple strands of creativity, both in architectural form and structural design, a great urban sculpture carefully set in a remarkable waterscape and a world famous iconic building.

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4 Replies to “Sydney Opera House”

  1. It’s hard to picture now just how visionary this building was when it was first proposed. The seashell-like white structures on the roof would have been an impossibility only a few years earlier. They nearly proved impossible anyway. It took the team six years alone to figure out the roof. Sadly, such engineering leaps are today often overshadowed by the Opera House’s sublime beauty; likened to watching a pair of pristine white ships, bobbing gently up and down, far out at sea. Not that this matters. The Sydney Opera House is today an enduring symbol not just of a city, but of the entire country of Australia.


  2. It looks impressive –– by day and night. It is a sight to see early in the morning as the sun’s rays glint off its spectacular sails. Lit up at night, it looks a luminous picture and the play of light from the water creates a dappled effect.


  3. The Opera House is, by far, the most recognizable Sydney landmark. The iconic building took 14 years to complete. The massive staircase – nearly 100-meters-wide – leads to the entrance, but I recommend staying on the ground level and completely circling the structure to gain perspective before climbing the stairs.


  4. My personal favorite spot for viewing this famed building is from the Royal Botanical Gardens. We really lingered there for awhile, observing the sun from its high point to near dusk, fascinated by the way the light rays showed off those two-toned shell-shaped roofs. Unesco inscribed this site in 2007, and up till now, it is a standout from any angle.


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