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Issued Thursday, 16 September 2004

THE UTZON ROOM: A FIRST FOR SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

The first venue at Sydney Opera House designed by Jørn Utzon will be officially opened tonight by Premier Bob Carr and re-named the Utzon Room in honour of the great architect.

When asked if he would agree to the room being named after him, Utzon said it was the greatest honour he could ever receive.

Utzon has designed a stunning new interior for the former Reception Hall with his signature features of natural timbers and finishes, and a 14-metre brightly coloured tapestry. The room has a magnificent easterly view of Sydney Harbour.

Utzon was the original architect for Sydney Opera House, and worked on its construction until 1966. He joined the House again in 2002 as the architect and refurbishing the Reception Hall has been his first major design project.

Mr Carr said: “Nearly 50 years since it was first conceived, and more than 30 years since Utzon’s beautiful landmark was completed, the exterior still appears visionary.

“His concepts for the interiors were never realised, but with the Utzon Room, he has been able to put his stamp on the inside of the House.

“It is 21st century Utzon design.”

Mr Carr said it was the only venue that was still intact from Utzon’s original construction plans, and so represents the only true Utzon interior.

“Utzon has never sought honours or recognition, but we know he had a special fondness for this room,” he said.

“By naming it for him, we acknowledge that his extraordinary building has given Sydney and Australia a focus of identity, pride and celebration – way beyond what was ever imagined by Labor Premier Joe Cahill back in 1957.”

From Denmark, Jørn Utzon said: “It (the naming) gives me the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. I don’t think you can give me more joy as the Architect. It supersedes any medal of any kind that I could get and have got.”

(In 2002, Jørn Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize.)

The Chair of Sydney Opera House Trust, Joseph Skrzynski, said: “For the first time, an interior of the building matches the beauty of its exterior.

“Finished on time and on budget, the Utzon Room will be a wonderful venue for performances, functions and meetings.

“The work has been an excellent collaboration between the NSW Government and Sydney Opera House with Jørn Utzon, his architect son Jan and local architect Richard Johnson of Johnson Pilton Walker.”

The refurbishment of the Reception Hall has cost $4.6 million. This includes construction, installation of an accessible lift, creation of the tapestry, restoration of the beams, project management and design costs.

The work involved removing the green carpet, dance floor and discoloured timber fixtures and fittings. Hundreds of hours of painstaking work on the concrete ceiling beams followed, then services and technical facilities were installed and a new parquetry floor of Tasmanian Blue Gum was laid.

Finally, the 14-metre long, floor-to-ceiling, woollen tapestry, designed by Jørn Utzon was installed. The design was inspired by CPE Bach’s Hamburg Symphonies and Raphael’s painting, “Procession to Calvary”.

The tapestry is Utzon’s first decorative artwork and it represents a celebration of art itself - an artwork inspired by two great artists, Bach and Raphael, within a building which is itself an artwork, which presents and promotes the best of performing arts.

The tapestry was woven over eight months by the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, supervised by Utzon’s daughter and well-known visual artist, Lin.

Preliminary work has begun on Utzon’s design for a loggia, or colonnade, along the western façade of the building. This will be the first external structural alteration to Sydney Opera House since it opened in 1973.

 

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