The Sydney Opera House at 50

The Sydney Opera House at 50

by Shopify API

As 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Sydney Opera House, by architect and designer Jørn Utzon, we take a moment to reflect on the life and work of one of Denmark’s most prominent figures in design.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House, designed by renowned Danish architect, Jørn Utzon. To celebrate, we are delving into the archives to explore Utzon’s design practice, his inspirations and how his love of nature, especially water, was engrained in his work and way of life. 

In commemoration of Jørn Utzon and his contribution to design, Danish brand &Tadition has taken inspiration from one of his favourite colours to create the Special Edition Utzon Pendant Lamp, released earlier this year. The shade Steel Blue can be seen in buildings he constructed for himself and his family, and in the water of Sydney Harbour surrounding the monument. 

Read on to learn more about Utzon's artful approach to living, the Utzon legacy including a tour of his family home in Denmark and the Special Edition Utzon Pendant Lamp. Plus, follow along on Instagram this month for behind-the-scenes content of an exciting event we are hosting at the Sydney Opera House in partnership with &Tradition and The Utzon Centre.  

The Art of Living

An essay on Jørn Utzon's design philosophy written by Line Nørskov Davenport, Director of Exhibitions at the Utzon Centre. 

According to a Buddhist saying, someone who truly masters ‘the art of living’ makes little distinction between his art and his leisure.

Rather, he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether it is work or play.

The saying comes to mind, when thinking of the Danish architect Jørn Utzon.


Photo from the architect's younger days, Denmark, 1940s — Credit: The Utzon Archives / Utzon Center ©

More often than not, his designs are linked to observations in nature: its colours, light and structures. Even when working on the Sydney Opera House, he decidedly set up his studio in a boatshed 40 kilometres north of Sydney in Bayview on Barrenjoey headland. Pounding winds and waves had been carving away at this site, creating, right near the studio, a cliff-side, semi-circular cave the size of a living room. There are many stories from this place about parties and office outings to study the craggy sandstone, the clouds and waves, finding natural solutions to complicated problems.


Blueprints and sketches created during the early planning phases of the Sydney Opera House - the Utzon Center's archive material

Jørn Utzon on the building site of the Sydney Opera House during the period of the roof's construction, 1962 — Credit: The Utzon Archives / Utzon Center ©

Sometimes, when the Australian press came to Bayview to see what the architect of the Sydney Opera House was doing, Utzon was said to slip out unnoticed, going sailing instead. In part, nature was a place of escape for a famously illusive and private architect. But being surrounded by natural landscapes to reconnect with the essentials of living, and to draw inspiration from it, was Utzon’s way.


Photograph of the prefabricated tile lids for the Sydney Opera House, made and developed in collaboration with artisans from the Swedish city of Höganäs — Credit: The Utzon Archives / Utzon Center ©

UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sydney Opera House — Credit: The Utzon Archives / Utzon Center ©

The Utzon Legacy

Danish brand &Tradition met with Jan Utzon in the house his father, Jørn Utzon, built for himself and his family in 1950,  to discuss his family’s rich design legacy.

The house remained Jørn’s base for the rest of his life. “It’s my laboratory,” he once commented.

With its open plan and a backbone of a yellow stone wall, it defined for the world’s press that this is what a house could now look like.


Jan Utzon in front of the house his father built in 1952

Jørn and Lis Utzon with their sons, Jan and Kim, and daughter, Lin | Image copyright: Utzon Center

The house's innovative design was very much welcomed by the world of architecture, and was widely imitated in the 1950s

In this house, the original of &Tradition’s Utzon JU1 lamp hangs in many places. The house was born with this lamp. At the front door, where Jan Utzon greets us, it hangs up in the wooden ceiling full of cobwebs and spiders – slightly tarnished, just as an original lamp should look.

The house is surprisingly intact after all these years. New corridors and galleries have been added so that the original floor plan of 100sqm now reaches over 400sqm, but it is not experienced as a large house, rather a larger house with light courtyards. It is in the same one plan and the additions are discreetly located in relation to the old house. Here, the original kitchen is still intact right down to the stove which dates to the 1950s.

Large windows point towards the forest, not far away, and before that a garden has been cleared. When Jørn and Lis Utzon lived here it was a summer house and the forest was much closer – a real thorn-rose house surrounded by the blackening forest.


'Utzon Arkitekter' - 'Utzon's Architects' - The front door where an original Utzon lamp hangs perfectly tarnished.

This boomerang was given to Jørn Utzon in 1966 when he resigned from the Sydney Opera House project. Gifted by his staff, they hoped he was also a boomerang and would return.

New corridors and galleries have been added so that the original floor plan of 100sqm now reaches over 400sqm.

Utzon Special Edition | Jørn Utzon

This Special Edition release of Jørn Utzon’s classic Danish pendant lamp commemorates the 50th anniversary of the completion of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sydney Opera House, by architect and designer Jørn Utzon.

Offering a new take on the classic Danish design, &Tradition welcomes the Utzon Special Edition lamp in Steel Blue to its collection.

Originally conceived by Utzon in 1947, a decade before the architect began work on the symbolic Australian monument, the Utzon pendant’s structure is a precursor for the lyrical aesthetic of the landmark’s silhouette.

Inspired by time spent as a child in his father's shipyard, the shade is made of lacquered steel and is comprised of four components formed by a combination of two metal shaping techniques: deep drawing and spinning.


&Tradition Utzon JU1 Pendant 

&Tradition Utzon JU1 Pendant - Special Edition

"Jørn Utzon is an integral part of Danish design and architecture history", comments Els Van Hoorebeeck, Creative and Brand Director at &Tradition.

"The more time we spent digging through archival materials, the more we saw the Steel Blue shade reappear in his work. Additionally, since The Sydney Opera House is surrounded by water, Steel Blue also serves as a reference to this, making the colour and high-gloss finish a wonderful tribute to its 50 year anniversary."


The &Tradition collection is exclusively available in Australia at Cult. Shop online Australia-wide or visit our stores in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. 

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