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Sydney Icons

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Sydney Opera House

These two icons are the most recognisable structures of the city of Sydney and both have become an important part of the Sydney Harbour landscape. The Harbour Bridge is one of Australia's most famous landmarks and is the world's largest steel arch bridge, with its top 134 metres above the harbour. Suggestions for an iron bridge to link the northern Milson's Point side and the southern Dawe's point side of the harbour were put forward as early as 1815 by Francis Greenway. As it was technically difficult and costly to go ahead with such a project, it wasn't until 1900 that designs were called for, and even then, none of them were deemed suitable and construction stalled once more.

As the city grew larger and the population increased, there was a need for this important link to be constructed and after WWI more serious plans were made. By this time, massive developments in bridge engineering technology had been made as well as developments in the local manufacture of prefabricated steel and concrete. It is thanks to the engineer Dr JJC Bradfield that the Bridge was finally completed. By 1912 he was in charge of the Bridge building branch and by 1922 he settled on a two hinged steel arch design primarily because of steel's durability and malleability with the deck and pylons made of reinforced concrete. The NSW government then invited international tenders for the project in 1922 with the contract finally let to the English firm of Dorman Long and Co of Middlesbrough. Construction began in 1924 with six million hand driven rivets and 53,000 tons of steel used.

Over 2000 people worked on the bridge, including engineers, boilermakers, ironworkers and stonemasons and were a mix of Australian and overseas labourers. The NSW Premier of the time, Jack Lang, officially opened the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 19 March 1932. The Bridge's completion represented international advances in bridge technology and was considered the epitome of modern bridge design and ingenuity. Today there are eight traffic lanes and two railway lanes and it is a pleasure to talk a walk across and admire the Harbour. You may also climb to the top and enjoy a spectacular, once in a lifetime, sunrise or sunset.

From the Harbour Bridge you can see the Sydney Opera House, another amazing structure with a unique design. In 1956 the NSW government held an international design competition with an independent jury, with a brief that required the design of two performance halls, one for opera and the other for symphony concerts. The commission was awarded to Jørn Utzon, a Danish architect who had a radical approach to the construction of the building. Over several years, he made gradual changes to his original concept so he could develop a way to construct the large shells that cover the two halls. He went through extensive testing and eventually developed a design based on the idea of the complex sections of a sphere. Finding this solution and construction of the shell structure took eight years, with the development of the ceramic tiles used for the shells, taking over three years.

Costs began to grow and overran the budget which resulted in Utzon's resignation from the project in 1966. Another architect took over and added three new venues underneath the concert hall on the western side. The Opera House was finally opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973 and new works were undertaken between 1986 and 1988. It was only in 1999 that Utzon reprised his old role as Sydney Opera House architect and developed a set of design principles to guide future developments and changes to the building. Thanks to it's organic shape and lack of surface decoration the structure has remained timeless and ageless and remains the only building on the Harbour forefront to have such a unique design . It is now considered a masterpiece of late modern architecture and will always stand out as a jewel on the Sydney Harbour.

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City: Sydney
Country: Australia
Published on 19-Mar-2009
Section City Live
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