Sydney Opera House Turns 41October 21, 2014

On October 20, 1973, Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the Sydney Opera House. This multiple performance venues, which is adjacent to the Sydney central business district and the Royal Botanic Gardens, accommodate numerous performing arts companies, including the Australian Ballet, Opera House, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and Sydney Theatre Company. It's among the busiest arts centres in the world, hosting over 1,500 performances each year attended by some 1.2 million people. Jørn Utzon, who designed the facility, must be credited for this, as the the arts complex is one of the most popular attractions in Australia, with 300,000 people participating annually in a guided tour.

The Opera House turns 41 this year, its short history at times colourful and amusing. It'll surely interest anyone. (Not included is the inclusion of the Sydney Opera House in the Lego Architecture series two years ago.) So here are seven facts that make this venue a world-class icon of architecture:

1. Utzon used his naval experience to study the charts of the harbour. During the competition (to design the Sydney Opera House), he was initially rejected by three judges. Eero Saarinen, the fourth judge, believed his design was outstanding. The Danish architect didn't see his project took shape. He didn't attend the opening ceremony, where he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of Architects Australia.

2. The building is 185 metres long and 120 metres wide. The highest roof point is 67 metres above sea level, which is the same as a 22-storey high building. The roof is made of 2,194 pre-cast concrete sections, which weigh up to 15 tons each.

3. The Opera House has 1,000 rooms. The Concert Hall, the largest of the seven venues, has 2,679 seats. The Utzon room, the smallest, seats up to 210 people. 15,500 bulbs light up the facility, which change every year.

4. Inside the Concert Hall is the Grand Organ, the largest mechanical version of its kind. It took ten years to build it. The same room played host to the Mr. Olympic bodybuilding contest in 1980. A then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger won the title.

5. In 1960, Paul Robeson sang "Ol' Man River" to the construction workers during lunch. This makes him the first person to perform at the Opera House. On September 29, 1973, Sergei Prokofiev's "War and Peace" was performed at the house. This was the first opera being staged there. The place was once a popular film-screening venue as well.

6. The facility was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. It's a "great urban sculpture set in a remarkable waterscape, at the tip of a peninsula projecting into Sydney Harbour." This doesn't come as a surprise, as at least two hundred thousand visitors set foot in its grounds. The place comes alive during Vivid Sydney, one of the many events held there.

7. Since its opening, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Opera House four times.

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