By Christopher J. Robbins
September 25, 2018
Greetings from sunny Oz. Maria, Johnny and I are enjoying the warming September Spring days here in beautiful Sydney. Life is good and getting better by the minute. Our family enjoys blessings stacked like cordwood and strive to live a life full of purpose and laden with gratitude.
Maria and I recently attended a show at the Sydney Opera House on a Friday night. We watched the original Walt Disney movie “Mary Poppins” accompanied by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra who played the soundtrack live as the movie was shown.
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It. Was. Magical.
Australians have a propensity (“tendency” for our Adair Heights pals) to hold worldwide design competitions for many of their most important projects: Parliament House in Canberra, City of Canberra (Capital of Australia) and the Sydney Opera House. In the mid 1950’s the New South Wales (NSW) government solicited designs for a new opera house from architects around the world. 233 designs were submitted originating from 32 different countries. Ultimately the Danish Architect, Jorn Utzon, emerged as winner in 1957. What is not widely known is that Utzon’s radical design was initially rejected by the panel of judges and saved by a renowned architect with a connection to Michigan, Eero Saarinen. Eero was born in Finland, then grew up in Bloomfield Hills where is father, Elliel, was the Dean of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Eero designed the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, and Washington Dulles International Airport Terminal among others. Eero Saarinen & Associates office was located at the intersection of W. Long Lake Road and Woodward Avenue in Bloomfield Hills. Eero practiced there until his death in 1961. RIP Eero Saarinen.
Construction of the Opera House got underway in 1959. Its original budget was $7 Million dollars and was scheduled to open on Australia Day, Jan 26, 1963. Fourteen years and $102 Million dollars later the project was completed. Utzon left the project in 1966 over disputes with the NSW government and NEVER returned to Australia to see the finished building. Like many rule-breaking, standard-shattering futuristic designs, Jorn Utzon’s design was ridiculed throughout its construction. Jorn’s design was so far ahead of the state-of-the-art construction methods at the time, new methods and materials had to be invented to build it. Including a very special epoxy adhesive called Araldite that was required to bond the pre-cast concrete ribs that form the “shells” of the opera house.
The Sydney Opera House officially opened on October 20, 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II. Ultimately the story has a terrific ending: Jorn Utzon was finally honored with the Utzon Room overlooking Sydney Harbor being named in his honor in 2004 and the Sydney Opera House was designated a World Heritage Site in 2007. The Sydney Opera House stands in the pantheon of great human building achievements like the Pyramids of Egypt and Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. If it weren’t for the creative brilliance of Jorn Utzon, the wisdom of Eero Saarinen and the utility of Araldite™ epoxy adhesive, the Opera House would have never come to fruition. I have never photographed any man-made object so frequently in my life, and I NEVER grow tired of photographing the Opera House. Its beauty gives me daily inspiration.
That’s all for now: Catch you around in a fortnight!
Aussie Travel Financial Factoids
Currency Exchange Rate: $1 US buys $1.37 AUD, Source Bloomberg
Roundtrip Airfare Detroit-Sydney : $1,441, Delta Airlines 1 stop in LA, Source Expedia