Architectural model, roof tile lid and roof cladding tile, Sydney Opera House, various makers, Australia, c.1964-1974.
The architectural model was made for display at the Sydney Opera House visitor centre, giving visitors an accurate impression of the completed building's exterior. After the Opera House was completed it was displayed for many years in the Opera Theatre foyer. As well as being an accurate representation of the final design of the Opera House, it is an artefact of the extraordinary public interest in this building project during and after its lengthy design and construction.
The roof tile lid demonstrates one of the strategies adopted to construct the Opera House using precast, repetitively designed concrete elements. The adoption of the spherical section design in 1961 made repetitive prefabrication possible, as the roofs were composed of parts sharing the consistent radius of a sphere.
Charles Pickett, curator Design and built environment.
The architectural model was built by Bruce Usher of Finecraft Scale Models, Forestville, Sydney during 1963 or 1965. According to the offer of donation from the Sydney Opera House Trust (8 May 1974) the model was 'originally placed in the Viewing Platform' at the Opera House construction site. It had been loaned to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences during November 1973, shortly after the completion of the Opera House.
The viewing centre was opened during 1965. The State Library of NSW holds photographs taken in 1965 of the model in the viewing centre, which was located against the cliff at the southern end of the site.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald (27 October, 1964, p.10), the model cost 4,400 pounds to make and was first displayed at David Jones Elizabeth Street department store, then Anthony Horderns store, 'and afterwards will be installed in a specially built viewing station at the Opera House site. The Minister for Public Works, Mr P N Ryan, who opened the display yesterday, said that the model would help to dispel public criticism of the Opera House. "Once people see the model they will realise the magnitude of the task"'.
The model was originally supported by a much larger base topped with sheets of blue glass representing the harbour. It also featured detachable model figures and cars. However shortly after the model was loaned to the Museum it was severely damaged while being moved by Museum staff. This accident necessitated the model's reconstruction by Finecraft Scale Models during 1974. The glass base may have been discarded at this time.
The other main difference between the model and the display model photographed during the 1960s is the foyer windows, which in the 1964 and 1965 photos approximate those designed by Jorn Utzon. At some time, presumably in 1974 or earlier, these were replaced by model windows with a dark tint resembling those constructed in the complete building.
From 1977 to 1998 the model was loaned to the Sydney Opera House and displayed there in the Southern Foyer.
The roof tile lid was made on the Opera House construction site in 1965 or 1966. It demonstrates how the building's white roof tiles were secured to prefabricated concrete roof sections like this. This process enabled the tiles to be fitted at ground level before each tile lid section was secured to the roof structure.