Building the Sydney Opera House

To mark 40 years since the opening of Sydney Opera House, engineer Arup is holding an exhibition which provides some insight into how the architectural icon was built.

Michael Lewis, Ove Arup and Jack Zunz on site, October 1964

Source: © Max Dupain (Courtesy Max Dupain and Associates Archives)

Michael Lewis, Ove Arup and Jack Zunz on site, October 1964

Arup founder Ove Arup was design engineer on the project, working with architect Jørn Utzon through an often fractious process. Tensions with the client eventually led to Utzon’s resignation from the scheme in 1966.

Sydney Opera House under construction, 6 April 1966

Source: © Robert Baudin (Courtesy Australian Air Photos)

Sydney Opera House under construction, 6 April 1966

Aside from being one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, Sydney Opera House is also notable as being one of the first buildings designed with computer-aided design.

The A4 glass wall of the Sydney Opera House, 1971

Source: © Harry Sowden

The A4 glass wall of the Sydney Opera House, 1971

To mark the anniversary, Arup is presenting a series of models, photography and drawings taken from the firm’s archives.

Installing a ridge beam segment on main shell, 1966

Source: © Max Dupain (Courtesy Max Dupain and Associates Archives)

Installing a ridge beam segment on main shell, 1966

The exhibition focuses on two areas in particular: the evolution of the roof structure, which is made of precast concrete panels, and the design of the glass walls, which was developed by Peter Hall, who replaced Utzon as lead architect on the project.

Installation of tile lids, 22 September 1966

Source: © Harry Sowden

Installation of tile lids, 22 September 1966

On show will be images taken by Australian Modernist photographer Max Dupain and a specially commissioned digitally fabricated model showcasing the roof structure.

Building the Sydney Opera House is at Arup, 8 Fitzroy Street, London W1T, from 11 April-25 July.

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