Utzon's Camera

A series of photographs from the architect's own collection, held by the State Library of New South Wales.

By Sydney Opera House

Model detailing the sections of the roof in place in the form of the sphere (1962) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Architect Jørn Utzon's photographic documentation of the project of the Sydney Opera House offers a unique insight into the vision of the artist, designer, architect and aesthete. An informal style arises from these compositions as their creator looks on at the work he initiated and which gradually gathers more and more contributors under the increasing gravity of the endeavour.

There is a marvellous and casual mixing of the photographic frame’s compositional aesthetics with the subjects themselves, which range from objets d'art, seen in the recording of the scale models, to the monumental Opera House roof, the “fifth facade”, as Utzon described it.

While the sculptural shape of the roof was still being built and clad in almost a million tiles, Utzon withdrew from the project, never to return to Australia to see with his own eyes the finished building, compounding the poignancy of this wonderful record.

Model detailing the sections derived from a sphere that comprise the final scheme for the roof (1962) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Various angles on an early model of the parabolic scheme (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Early parabolic scheme, 1:60 scale model, with figurines, 1958 (1959) by Jørn UtzonSydney Opera House

Full size model study for corridor design, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Full size model study for corridor design, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Inspecting a rib element on the east side of the Podium (1965) by Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Shell A6 in progress, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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A worker checks the accuracy of the width of formwork, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Following construction workers up the superstructure – not a safety harness in sight, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Workers prepare a rib element for elevation into place by one of the three Babcock-Weitz G 280 B cranes, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Riding the hook, workers land a concrete element, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Toilets at the end of the scaffolds (1965) by Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

The cleavage of the building functioned as a central conduit for the scaffolding (1965) by Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Looking through the mighty Shell A2 at the Maritime Services Board, later to become the Museum of Contemporary Art (1965) by Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

A cross-hatch of scaffolds (1965) by Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Fitting a rib element in place, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Sheltering from the sun, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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The undercarriage of the Major Hall's seating areas, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Pouring concrete, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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The work site's fascinating visual cacophony, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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The visual complexity of the site, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Supports keep the form in place during construction, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Concrete pedestals form the basis of the shells, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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The telescopic erection arch is positioned to complete a shell, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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The erection arch machinery provides an exoskeletal guide for the next rib assembly, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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The apex of the ingenious erection arch machinery, used to fit each rib segment in place, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Detail of the unclad ribs in situ, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Workers and engineers fit a final piece of a rib, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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The workyard, with prestige parking and formwork in the distance, Jørn Utzon, State Library of New South Wales, 1965, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Jørn Utzon's hands display sections comprising the final form of the roof taken from a spherical model, State Library of New South Wales, 1962, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Jørn Utzon with a small model of the spherical scheme (1962) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Credits: Story

Created by Sam Doust and the
Sydney Opera House GCI Team

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Contributors:
State Library of New South Wales

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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