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Jørn Utzon, illustration, 1958. Back cover of The Red Book, which was published as the first of two in connection with the start of construction of the Sydney Opera House.
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You can see it right away. It is Sydney Opera House.
And it might look very simple. But there is a dramatic story behind the iconic silhouette.
The illustration was included as the cover of the Red Book, which Jørn Utzon published in 1961. It is one of the two books that Jørn published during construction, so that the outside world could follow the historic project.
The drawing marks a kind of full stop to four years that were really challenging for Jørn and construction in Australia.
Jørn won the competition to build the Opera House in Sydney in 1957. But it was not until 1961 that Jørn and his design studio cracked the code and found the technical solution to how they should actually build the roof on the proposal they had submitted several years earlier.
They had tried all possible solutions on how to construct the wild roof in reality. It was the first time in world history that something like this had to be built.
For example, they had tried to describe the constructoin mathematically with parabolas, but here the shape became too flat and it could not be built. They had tried it all.
The problem was that the roof structure had to be described, so that they could make some precise drawings that could be built according to. They also had to be able to make calculations to see if the roof could even support.
It was only in 1961, when the workers in Sydney had finished building the platform and were just about to start work on the roof, that Jørn and his design studio found a solution.
So you are looking at a drawing that looks very simple, but is the expression of a very long journey.
Moreover, Jørn was by no means fond of mathematical problems. On the contrary. He has said himself that he was the dumbest in the class. He was not an academic. He couldn't stand math and he wasn't good at it.