Sydney Opera House
© David Moore Photography Pty Ltd

Site Overview

site name:
Sydney Opera House (stage 1 and 2)

(stage 1)
Jørn Utzon
date of commission
date of completion

(stage 2)
Hall, Todd & Littlemore
date of commission
date of completion


© David Moore Photography Pty Ltd

Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW
Recreation / Culture (REC)
protection status / heritage listing
– UNESCO World Heritage List, 2007
– National Heritage List Place (105738)
– NSW State Heritage Register (01685)


On 29 January 1957 Danish architect Jørn Utzon’s scheme was announced the winner of the international competition to design a ‘National Opera House for Sydney’. Working collaboratively, it would take Utzon and the London-based, Danish structural engineering firm Ove Arup & Partners, over four years, twelve different roof curvature proposals and untold hours of pioneering computer programming and analysis before the breakthrough spherical geometry solution of late 1961. Nonetheless it was this mathematical discipline that facilitated several groundbreaking construction innovations, most notably the formation of the arches from repetitive precast concrete rib segments and Utzon’s ingenious system of ‘tile lids’ as roof cladding.

Following a series of conflicts, Utzon resigned from the project and in April 1966, the young Sydney architect Peter Hall stepped in as design architect in the government-appointed consortium Hall, Todd & Littlemore. Respecting the precedence of Utzon’s aesthetic, and working within the difficult constraints of what Hall called the ‘found object’ of the building’s arched superstructure, over the next five years he and his team completed the building, designing the theatres and ancillary interior spaces, the auditorium seating, enclosing glass walls, lighting and signage. In October 1973 the Sydney Opera House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II to great fanfare and almost universal acclaim. Despite its troubled gestation, the magnificent edifice on Bennelong Point was, and continues to be, a triumphant success on many levels: creatively, technologically, functionally and as an inspirational, internationally recognized masterpiece of 20th-century architecture. 

Text adapted from an entry by Anne Watson in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad (2019, Thames and Hudson).