Sydney Opera House celebrates 40 years

Sydney Opera House celebrates 40 years


OCT 20, 2013


A giant birthday cupcake is displayed on the steps of the Sydney Opera House as the World Heritage-listed building celebrates its 40th birthday on Sunday. The distinctive performance hall, inspired by Danish architect Jorn Utzon’s childhood in the Aalborg shipyards, is one of Australia’s best-known landmarks and is a centerpiece of Sydney’s cultural scene. | AFP-JIJI

SYDNEY – The Sydney Opera House, World Heritage-listed as “one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity,” celebrated its 40th birthday Sunday with a flotilla of lifesavers, Aboriginal dancers and a gigantic cupcake. Huge crowds packed the steps for a distinctively Australian performance on the glittering harbor front, where three generations of Danish architect Jorn Utzon’s family were the guests of honor. It was a postcard-perfect day beneath the same cloudless blue skies that inspired Utzon’s winning design to build Sydney an opera house back in 1956 — the white sails drawn from his childhood in the Aalborg shipyards. “A building like this happens once in a lifetime,” Utzon’s son Jan told revelers on Sunday. “It is a unique Australian expression of will and enthusiasm and ‘let’s-go-do-it’ kind of spirit.” A crew of surf lifesavers wearing their famous yellow-and-red caps and costumes arrived at the Opera House’s Man O’ War steps on one of Sydney’s distinctive ferries, flanked by six of the association’s dinghies and two tugboats.

They were met and led by Aboriginal dancers up the red-carpeted steps, where a traditional smoking ceremony was held to spiritually cleanse the site, accompanied by an indigenous dance ritual and didgeridoo.

A giant cupcake topped with a model of the Opera House made from icing was carried onto the stage by the lifesavers, and Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes — frontman of Cold Chisel — led a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday,” accompanied by a navy brass band and school choir.

An Airbus A340 made a low pass over the site to cap celebrations.

The distinctive performance hall is one of Australia’s best-known landmarks and is a centerpiece of Sydney’s cultural scene, hosting some 2,000 shows every year and attracting 8.2 million visitors.

“As the most internationally recognizable symbol of both Sydney and Australia, it has become our calling card to the world,” said the governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir.

Opera House chief Louise Herron said the huge crowds were a reminder “that the Opera House is, above all, the people’s palace.”

Utzon won an international design contest to build the harbor city an opera house in 1956, competing against 232 other entries from 28 countries, despite being relatively unknown in the architecture world.

His ambitious blueprint, drafted from photos and maps without ever having visited the harbor site, took 14 years and 102 million Australian dollars (100 million) to complete, funded by a state lottery. It was one of the most difficult engineering feats ever attempted at the time, with Utzon envisaging a chamber with vaulted roofs unsupported by pillars or columns. Custom-built French cranes were used to piece together the iconic sails segment by segment in midair, with precast concrete ribs interlocking in an intricate jigsaw.

Some 1,056,006 individual tiles coat the exterior, custom-made from clay and stone. Utzon was inspired by Japanese ceramic bowls, imagining that their pale matte finish would perfectly offset the blue of Sydney’s harbor and sky. Protesters have scaled the building’s shell to unfurl banners about climate change and other causes, with one group painting “No war” in 5-meter red letters on its uppermost sail in a 2003 demonstration against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Opera House was listed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007, the year before Utzon died.

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Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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