Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student


Story of the Sydney shells

I saw Ben Folds before you did.

He recently performed at one of Australia’s most recognizable icons – the Sydney Opera House in Sydney Harbour.

Its architecture is so unique and outlandish that its recognition is comparable to that of the pyramids of Egypt.

The phenomenon lies in the roof – 14 cream-colored shells arranged in interlocking groups. The shells resemble a ship at full sail, and if they were combined as one, they would form a perfect sphere.

This design was created by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, who thought it only appropriate for a building on water to look like a ship. The Opera House has become the main tourist attraction in Sydney and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

In 1956, the government of New South Wales housed an international design competition with very broad design specifications and no cost limit, an idea that would later be the subject of much criticism.

The goal was to attract the most renowned architects, and the decision to hire Utzon as the single architect, a man who had never even been to Australia, aroused a lot of public attention.

Utzon’s shell design is one of the most difficult architectural tasks to ever be carried out, and the government demanded the construction begin before the final design was developed.

The early start led to structural issues, resulting in extremely inflated costs.

Tension grew between Utzon and the government until 1965, when the government changed. Utzon resigned a year later. He fled the country and never returned to see his masterpiece, which was completed seven years later.

Despite its name, the Opera House has multiple venues and features many types of entertainment, including ballets, symphonies and many pop musical artists.

For three nights during his tour of Australia, Folds drew fans to the Concert Hall, a small and intimate room of the Opera House. The fans were not a homogenous group, but people of all ages enthusiastic to see the singer and spend an evening in the classy work of art.

Folds called on two men in the audience to play hacky sack onstage while he jammed on the piano. He also invited a group of five people, whom he called his “tribe,” to play bongo drums during a few of the songs.

The drums echoed throughout the chamber and sounded remarkable with the acoustics. His two-hour performance flew by, and the encore still left the crowd wanting more.

Since its first performance of War and Peace, the Sydney Opera House has enriched the culture and arts of the young Australian nation. It remains one of the biggest symbols for Sydney and Australia and attracts both locals and tourists to the stunning harbor.

Get stories like this in your inbox