While I was a Freshman in architecture school, a helpful professor told me “you’ll never be able to draw as well as I can.” Um… thanks? What he was saying, in the most domineering way, was that I would never be able to rely on my hands the same way he could rely on his to communicate architectural ideas via manual drawings. And he was right. Manual drawings are not necessarily superior to digital drawings, but they require skills that are pushed to the brink of extinction by digital tools. These manual drawings by Jørn Utzon investigate the design of the Sydney Opera House, but don’t offer hints about the events surrounding the project’s construction.
The story of Utzon winning the design competition reads like a dream, but the politics that mired the realization of the project sound like hell on earth. The government insisted that construction begin before Utzon had finished designing the project. The government also wanted to add two theaters to the program, after construction began and Utzon was still figuring out how exactly to construct the project’s iconic shells. Finally a new premier was elected who simply quit paying Utzon. He resigned the project in 1966, and the project opened seven years later without mentioning Utzon’s name once during the ceremonies. It wasn’t until the late 90’s that Utzon reconciled with the Sydney Opera House Trust.
But before the fallout, there were these drawings propelling the design and construction forward. While the Sydney Opera House was one of the first buildings to utilize a computer for structural analysis purposes, the computer wasn’t trying to snatch the drawings out of Utzon’s hands. Instead, the greedy hands belonged to a newly-elected premier.