On a recent business trip to Oslo, my younger son sent me some photos of the spectacular Opera House (Operahuset), situated on the city waterfront at the head of Oslofjord.
This venue is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet and opened in 2008. Apart from its striking design and wonderful harbour-side location, there are two other striking facts about this modern architectural feat – construction of the Opera House was completed ahead of schedule and within budget.
All of this took me back to the days of my deep sea career and trips to Australia during a time when the Sydney Opera House was being built. This project to build a major centre of performing arts, conceived of in the late 1940s and with a design by Danish architect Jorn Utzon chosen in 1957, was embroiled in controversy throughout. In fact, my 11 year period with Alfred Holt’s Blue Funnel Line (1960-71), was not sufficient to cover the construction period of the Opera House which ran from 1959 to the opening in 1973.
Those in the shipping industry, at that time, enjoyed an eye witness view of the development of the project at Bennelong Point, adjacent to the famous Circular Quay area of the harbour which has seen major shipping activity since the 19th century and today is home to the famous Sydney Ferries which ply their trade across the various shores of the harbour.
Circular Quay, of course, is also adjacent to another striking Sydney landmark – the Harbour Bridge which opened in 1932. Blue Funnel ships (before my time!) had carried some of the construction materials into the harbour for that iconic project. The bridge looms large across the harbour area, and like the Opera House, is an iconic backdrop for most photos or postcards of Sydney. However, its opening in 1932 did significantly affect the profitability of the ferry operations which today operate with financial subvention from the New South Wales government.