Page C1.1 . 08 November 2006                     
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    Postcard from Sydney

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    The Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon. Photography by Elizabeth Bollinger.

    Dear ArchitectureWeek,

    I thought I was prepared to meet the Sydney Opera House.

    I was mistaken!

    The image of this remarkable structure, stamped in my own mind for years, is one of the most recognized in the world... the icon for Australia.

    The views from every angle were more breathtaking than I had imagined.

    My favorite view was from a sailboat in Sydney Harbor, with another sailboat in the foreground, on a picture-perfect day.

    I knew the facts: Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon for a competition in the late 1950s. Redesigned by Utzon for several years until he solved the problem of how to build the "sails" of the roof, the distinguishing feature of the building and an architectural feat before its time. Political arguments over cost and interior design that caused Utzon to resign from the project and leave Australia, never to return. Completion of the building by others in 1973. Built at a cost of AU$102 million. More than one million tiles in the roof. Over 3000 events per year. More than 200,000 visitors taking guided tours annually. At last I was one of those tourists.

    I visited and revisited the Sydney Opera House, seeing it at different times of day, from a variety of vantage points — from land, from sea, from the air. One of the most lasting impressions is my reflection on the tragedy that Utzon has never seen this magnificent structure in its completed state. Why should I, the informed tourist, have had this privilege when the brilliant designer Jørn Utzon has not?

    On the road in Sydney,
    Elizabeth Bollinger


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