Models: Visiting Architects

Keen to see the development of one of the most exciting projects in contemporary architecture, the chairman of the international design competition for the Sydney Opera House, architect Harry Ashworth, along with members of the International Union of Architects, visited Jørn Utzon in Hellebæk, Denmark, in September 1960.

Jørn Utzon and Harry Ashworth walk through Copenhagen during a visit by the International Union of Architects (1960) by Yuzo MikamiSydney Opera House

On 5 September 1960, Ashworth, seen here walking beside Utzon, visited the architect’s studio in Hellebæk, Denmark.

Ashworth had been an influential and early supporter of the Sydney Opera House. He was also now the lead architectural adviser of the Sydney Opera House Executive Committee, the body responsible for overseeing the project.

Ashworth was visiting Utzon after a study trip throughout Europe to a number of opera houses.

One of the young architects working in Utzon's office, Yuzo Mikami, recalled that “it was for him [Ashworth] a very important visit in which he became well acquainted with Utzon’s design methods, particularly the way of working out designs through building models ... Utzon developed cogent explanations about the designs ... with which Ashworth was completely indoctrinated.”

Jørn Utzon hosts visiting architects in Hellebæk, Denmark (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

The following day, up to 40 members of the International Union of Architects visited the large warehouse space that had been swiftly rented and filled with models.

Utzon’s young assistant architects had spent the past fortnight racing to finalise the presentation space for the auspicious visit. The visitors responded, Mikami observed, “with mixed feelings of admiration, envy and skepticism”.

This group had splintered off from the union’s main conference held in London some weeks earlier. There, Italian master builder Pier Luigi Nervi had criticised architects who designed structures without a proper understanding of technical aspects. Whether this was a veiled criticism of Utzon’s winning entry is unclear, although it was widely known that the architect had not consulted an engineer before submitting his design.

Regardless of whether members of the group shared this critique, their presence in Hellebæk emphasised how much Utzon’s design had emerged as one of the most exciting projects in the world.

Professor Harry Ashworth studying the large model of the Podium (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Utzon describes a model to Professor Harry Ashworth and architect Paul Schooboe (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Major Hall auditorium, large model of the faceted ceiling design (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Model of the faceted ceiling design for the Major Hall (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Major Hall auditorium, large model of the faceted ceiling design, State Library of New South Wales, 1960, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Minor Hall, auditorium, early model, State Library of New South Wales, 1960, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Minor Hall, auditorium, colour and figurine study of an early model, State Library of New South Wales, 1960, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Mogens Prip-Buus works on a model of interior spaces (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Jørn Utzon, Harry Ashworth, Jon Lundberg and Paul Schooboe examine a study of faceting (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Jørn Utzon, Professor Harry Ashworth and Professor Walter Unruh (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Early parabolic scheme, 1:60 scale model with interior halls (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Early parabolic scheme, front of house, 1:60 scale model with early designs of auditoriums (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Model of Jørn Utzon's submission design (1958) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Early parabolic scheme, 1:60 scale model, Monumental Steps view (1960) by State Library of New South WalesSydney Opera House

Model of the early parabolic scheme, 1:60 scale (1958) 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
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