1973, 28 Minutes
On 20 October 1973, the Sydney Opera House was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II. From conception to completion, it had taken more than 15 years and over $100 million dollars to build. A remarkable feat of engineering skill and innovation, this striking and imaginative building captured the world’s interest and is considered by many to be among the great architectural achievements of the 20th century. In the years since its completion, the Sydney Opera House has become one of the most identifiable of Australia’s icons - ranking with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Uluru, the koala and kangaroo.
The construction of this architectural masterpiece was recorded by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit from its inception. It documents the history of the Opera House, from the selection of the site at Bennelong Point to the official opening. All facades are fully explored, and these exterior sequences are blended with scenes of the Opera House at work. Included are rehearsals of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, excerpts from Sam Wanamaker's production of Prokofieff's opera War and Peace and scenes from The Threepenny Opera. The structure of the film is based upon some 40 sequences showing the building's varying moods, from a grey dawn through the light and shadow and colour of a typical Sydney summer day to the blazing brilliance of the Opera house at night. The resulting documentary has been called The Fifth Facade - a reference to the roof which is the building’s most distinctive feature.
The commentary of Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect who won the worldwide competition for the original building design, offers insights into his vision for a construction appropriate to the site it occupied and the functions it was to serve. He details the unique structural and aesthetic problems that had to be solved to make his vision a reality. As Utzon says in the film, "One could not design a building for such an exposed position without paying attention to the roof - one must have a fifth facade."
A Film Australia production. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Producer: Anthony Buckley
Director: Donald Crombie
Narrator: Sam Wanamaker, Jorn Utzon
Running Time: 28 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: Architecture, Design and Technology, Industrial Design, Visual Arts.