My father's idea for the Opera House was based on the fact that the site was in the middle of the city set on a peninsular in the harbour. He felt that it was similar in nature to his native Kronborg Castle in Denmark. The castle is on a peninsular jutting out from the coast of Denmark.
When you sail around it you see it from all sides and for him it was a sculpture so to speak.
It changes its shape, its colours and its expression throughout the day and according to which angle you look at it. So he felt that the Sydney Opera House had to be something of the same nature;
A sculpture in the centre of the city.
When my father first received the competition brief he went to the naval chart dealer in Denmark and bought some naval charts of Sydney. On those charts, apart from the plan of the city and the harbour of Sydney, he also got some profiles of the entrance to the Sydney Harbour framed by the huge headlands. Those sandstone headlands partly sparked his inspiration for the plateau which later was to carry the sails of The Opera House.
But he also had an inspiration in mind that he gathered from the Mayan Pyramids while traveling in Mexico. The step pyramids are leading up to a plateau and my father always felt that this was an extremely strong architectural feature that he would like to see repeated in a modern structure.
So using the Sydney Headlands as a feature and the step pyramids of the Mayan architecture combined with the sculptural sails set above the plateau, the sails that covered the auditoria and the stage tower, he felt he had a very strong architectural composition.
A sculpture set in the middle of the Sydney Harbour.
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- Jan Utzon