Skip to content

The Museum reopens on 29 Oct 21. See Plan your visit

The Sydney Opera House is an Australian icon. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the building represents innovation in architecture and engineering and provides a space to realise creative ambition. It has become a symbol the world immediately associates with Sydney and Australia.

More on the Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House broke new ground for design and engineering when it opened in 1973.

UNESCO World Heritage List

In 1956 Danish architect Jørn Utzon won an international competition to design a performing arts centre for Sydney on Bennelong Point. The site was cleared and landforms levelled. Utzon’s dramatic modernist vision began to rise on the harbour’s edge.

Built during a major period of urban expansion, the Sydney Opera House reflects an optimistic moment in the city’s history. More than 10,000 people worked on the project.

After some financial difficulties and political controversy, it was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.

Described by Utzon as a ‘large, white sculpture’, the Sydney Opera House is a monument to beauty and creativity. In 2007 the building was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List – the youngest cultural site to be selected.

An artwork featuring a background with a red and yellow sunset. The red section is in the shape of the Sydney Opera House. Below this is a landscape painted in stripes of green. The branches are painted black and have yellow ends.The box in which they are placed is painted yellow on the outside and has clam shells attached to its surface. In front of this is a brass fireplace screen with a low-relief of a sailing ship on the sea with a light house on a headland. A shelf in front of this has four metal brackets for attaching the statues. - click to view larger image
Bennelong Had a Point by Blak Douglas (Adam Hill) and Hugh Ramage, 2012

Bennelong's home

When the first British colonists arrived at Sydney Cove in January 1788, they unloaded their livestock and supplies onto what is now known as Bennelong Point. The peninsula was an important site for the local Gadigal group of the Eora people who regularly visited to fish and gather oysters.

Gadigal people know what is now called Bennelong Point as Jubgalee or Tubowgule, meaning white mud or clay. The first colonists called the peninsula Cattle Point, and then Limeburner’s Point, because they burnt the oyster shells discarded there by the Gadigal to make lime for much-needed building mortar.

In 1790, Bennelong, of the Wangal group of the Eora people, asked Governor Arthur Phillip to build him a brick house at the far end of Limeburner’s Point. Bennelong had been helping the colonists learn Eora customs and language and Phillip readily complied with his request. The peninsula became Bennelong Point. Two years later, after Bennelong left Sydney for Britain with Phillip, the settlers demolished his house, which had become a gathering place for Aboriginal people. It was replaced with a gun battery.

After the government forcibly removed local Aboriginal people who camped there, Bennelong Point became a busy wharf and landing area and eventually a tram depot.

In our collection

Sydney Opera HouseA gouache painting on paper. The design features the Sydney Opera House with dots below and a sun above. The colours used are blue, yellow, green, purple and ochre red. There is a white sticker on the back that reads '3087'.
Return to Top