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Off key


Foresight (NCE 22 January) is right to recommend Peter Murray's book about the Sydney Opera House. However the description that is was a 'successful building project' seems to be stretching a point.

This centre for performing arts took 16 years to design and build and cost something like 10 times the initial budget. The client required that the main hall should be able to stage both grand opera and symphony concerts, uses that are diametrically opposed in terms of seating, backstage planning and acoustics. This was 'well known' at the time, as was the downfall of the original architect J rn Utzon who never was able to show he had squared this circle.

The roof that finally got architectural approval was also so heavy that the sub-structures which had already been built had to be strengthened. Then every bolt holding the doublycurved concrete tiles in place had to be surveyed in three dimensions and the joints between the units sealed with mastic which had to be replaced less than 20 years later. And so on.

If Foresight considers this to be a successful building project it would be interesting to know what an unsuccessful one is!

Malcolm Millais, malcolm. millais@clix. pt

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