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Jørn Utzon’s ‘Descriptive Narrative’ : an approach to space at the Sydney Opera House

posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by S Dwyer
The Sydney Opera House, one of the world’s most recognisable buildings, is situated on Bennelong Point: located at the northern end of the commercial district of Sydney, Australia’s biggest city. This space, jutting out onto the harbour, is dominated by the physical structure of the building’s exterior which consists predominantly of a heavy granite base and the, seemingly, lightweight soaring shells. There is, however, another aspect to space on this site that is rarely considered: that generated by the illumination of both the delineated physical spaces and the spaces that are ‘created’ by the various lighting designs deployed across the built structure and the areas that surround it. This chapter will utilise Jørn Utzon’s ‘Descriptive Narrative’ – written to capture the conception of the building as the architect viewed it in his mind – as a springboard to examine the illumination of the Sydney Opera House, and how lighting creates and defines the internal and external spaces at a very complex performing arts centre, as well as supports the illumination of these areas. Drawing on the disciplines of architecture, lighting design and the performing arts, this chapter will examine the illumination and the important, although often neglected, role lighting plays to reinforce the metaphysical journey outlined in the ‘Descriptive Narrative’: a journey that patrons take as they move through various spaces between their arrival at the Sydney Opera House and their attendance of a performance.



Dwyer S; Franks R; Green R

Parent Title

With(Out) trace : interdisciplinary investigations into time, space and the body

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Inter-Disciplinary Press

Place of Publication

Oxford, UK

Open Access

  • No

External Author Affiliations

Not affiliated to a Research Institute; School of Education and the Arts (2013- );

Era Eligible

  • Yes

Number of Chapters