I’m affected by my surroundings. Probably too much.
I get bummed out by a drab hotel room, huge parking garages give me the ick, the Brutalist architecture in eastern Europe is dehumanizing to me and to top it off I find the entire season of winter deeply offensive
As a comic I am required to visit many cities that have the aesthetic value of shit piled on top of shit. Most of the hotels I stay in are designed by Brutalism’s happier, dumber cousin, “Functionalism”.
I’m always alone (or almost alway alone) when I’m traveling and going to these not so nice places. This causes me to suffer from a disease known as “I want to do a lot of drugs-itis”. I fight the good fight against this and have been winning for many years.
This is why I wish the entire world had been designed by Jorn Utzon. Who is that, you ask? Utzon was a famous Danish architect who was destined to do two things:
1. Have an impossibly fun name to pronounce – “Yee-orn Ewt-zsen”. Say it. Say it!
2. Design the most timeless, beautiful theater I’ve ever seen.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Sydney Opera House.
Well played, Jorn. Well played.
This building makes me happy. It makes everyone happy. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the Sydney Opera House. Even people from Melbourne like the Sydney Opera House! If you knew the extremely visceral, knee-jerk way that people from Melbourne dislike anything Sydney-related then you’d know how big a statement that is. it’s like someone from Boston admitting the Yankees are a world class organization. Yeah, it’s that big.
Jorn Utzon nailed it. And he had zero margin for error. He was tasked with putting a city-defining, perhaps a nation-defining building across from what was already the most famous man-made landmark in the country, the Harbour Bridge.
If you’ve seen the Harbour Bridge (the picture above you), then you know it’s stunning and perfect and Australian in the best sense of the word. It’s sturdy, beautiful, clean, forward-thinking, timeless and happy. That is what I think of when I think of Australia. That and koalas.
Speaking of which, is there a way we can get a koala infestation going on the Harbour Bridge? How awesome would that be? That is literally the best Idea I’ve ever had and the only way that bridge could be improved. Although to be honest pretty much anything ever would be better with a koala infestation.
When the Opera House was completed the Harbour Bridge must have breathed a massive sigh of relief. As we all know, civic projects can run the gamut from jaw-dropping beauty to downright eyesore. The same architect can be guilty of both in their career. I’m looking at you, I.M. Pei. Love your work, buddy, but you will never convince me that ridiculous pyramid belongs in front of the Louvre.
I imagine the Bridge must have seen its new neighbor and felt a momentary twinge of jealousy, followed by relief that its permanent harbour-mate would serve not to distract or deter from the beauty of the Harbour, but rather add to it in its peculiar, unostentatious way. Look how well they go together even though they were completed 41 years apart!
The citizens of Sydney must have been relieved too. Sydneyites are particular when it comes to protecting the natural beauty of their harbour. They must have been well-pleased with Mr.Utzon’s work. Actually I know they were because when he quit the project mid-construction due to lack of payment from the New South Wales government, the people of Sydney took to the streets in protest! They wanted their Jorn back and they wanted him now! Protesting about architecture. You have to love a citizenry that cares that much about their aesthetic.
I always wonder what Australians thought of the Opera House when they first saw it. And I wonder how long it took them to forget it hadn’t always been there. Not terribly long I’d imagine. This is because the Opera House could only be designed for the place upon which it rests. That is the secret of why it sings so sweetly (pardon my pun). That is why it doesn’t look dated, even though a building that looks like a 1970’s catamaran should by all means look and feel dated
How many buildings can claim that? You could put the Empire State Building in any major downtown center in America and it would be fine. Domineering but fine. Same goes for the Sears Tower and also for the Eiffel. Heresy, you say? Listen, the Eiffel Tower is undoubtedly a staggering work of genius, but it has always been more about what Gustav Eiffel could build than it has been about capturing the soul of Paris. There are a dozen other buildings or structures that could define that marvel of a city just as nicely thank you (Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe), they just aren’t as tall. If you ask me the Eiffel Tower would do just as fine in its surroundings if it were laid in a serene, scenic park in Luxembourg (nobody has in fact asked me or is planning to).
But not the Opera House. One look at it and you know it is meant to be there. It is not possible for a man-made structure to give you the same sense of well-being that you get from seeing a lake carved out by a glacier hundreds of thousands of years ago but the Opera House comes close. Because like the aforementioned lake, it seems to be a piece of nature, something that occurred, something that just happened rather than something that was planned. Making you forget a building was planned and constructed with heavy equipment is no easy feat but I’ll be damned if Jorn didn’t do it.
And so it was that the fierce Danish God of architecture did lay waste to the ideas of the other, lesser Gods and reveal his marvelous creation to the Odin-kin. They saw that it was good and Odin did decree a feast day in Jorn’s honor.
I have only been to one play at the Opera House. I took Rachel to see Romeo and Juliet. In other words I took the woman I love to see a play about undying love inside the building I love.
RACHEL AND I ABOUT TO GO SEE A PLAY AT THE OPERA HOUSE.
That’s about as perfect as it gets.
Listen to Sean Kent every week on his podcast “The Midweek Meltdown”. Available on iTunes or for Android and Windows.
ATOP AND AMIDST MY LOVELY OPERA HOUSE