The Opera House Project

The Opera House Project advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald, November 2013
The Opera House Project advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald, November 2013

Between October 2011 and November 2012, I was principally working on The Opera House Project. Here’s an excerpt from the Project’s About and Credits page which gives an introduction to the finished product:

This project arose out of an idea to document Sydney Opera House in an innovative digital environment, enabling a worldwide audience to experience the story of one of the greatest buildings of the Twentieth Century.

No small task, as the story of this building is also one of the most extraordinary of the twentieth century, both in terms of Australian identity and the failed quest for perfection that consumed its creators.

The overall narrative is crafted from a balance between newly written material and the archival narratives that reveal aspects of the story in the words of those who were there.

Aside from the fantastic editorial and design opportunities the project allowed for, it afforded a chance to experiment with responsive design and handling rich media outside proprietary web environments such as Adobe Flash. In order to reach as many devices and web environments as possible, not only now but at least five years hence, it was clear that the content should be produced in an environment based on modern web standards. Having decided to implement a rich media engine to drive chapters of the story framework, one that allowed us to slave images, audio and video together to form narrative, we settled on AngularJS, an open framework developed at Google.

Over 26 hours of content are presented in the Project. The UX and graphic design consistently emphasise a consciousness about time, not only through the duration of media objects, but also by promoting Timed Journeys through the content and emphasising the chapterised partition of the story. In many ways this digital-only document is just like a book, with small, discreet chapters creating a linear and non-linear whole.

Credits include: writer, director, graphic designer, animator and editor, producer and executive producer, researcher and interviewer, sound designer.
Full credits here. Here’s an introduction to the project:

A few months after the Project was published, critic, historian and novelist Sylvia Lawson wrote an in-depth review for The Canberra Times supplement Inside Story, subsequently re-published on IS’s website:

Here's Sylvia Lawson's seminal review can be read inside Story review.
Here’s Sylvia Lawson’s review can be read on the Inside Story website.

I approached the graphic design of the project with an emphasis on minimalism to the interface, allowing maximum emphasis for the original materials. This is enhanced by the media handling properties of the JS framework which controls page elements, fluidly adjusting the interface to the size of the screen it is being displayed upon, or is re-sized on.

Apart from the home page, which mirrors the pages beneath it, the design aesthetic was driven by a rigid left alignment of page elements and some horizontal scrolling if required by lower screen resolutions. This alignment principle strongly supported the full screen display of content, which reaches out fluidly to the right of the screen regardless of different sizes and resolutions. Minimalism is also the rationale of the typography, using web fonts including EB Garamond and Gudea, and the modernised version of the classic architectural font Neutraface. Utzon and Richard Neutra were pals, having first met in the late 1940s in North America.

Home Page, The Opera House Project.
Home Page, The Opera House Project.

The main screens beneath the home page also act as slide shows, echoing the behaviour of the chapters they present. Part One, below, details the conception and ideation of the Opera House, the European design and engineering period and the emergence of the spherical geometry of the final design of the building.

Part One of the documentary detailing the story from 1954 through to 1962. The Opera House Project.
Part One of the documentary detailing the story from 1954 through to 1962. The Opera House Project.

Part Two details the move to Sydney and the disintegration of relationships and ideas which led to Utzon’s withdrawal and the completion of the House by a committee, led by Peter Hall, the design architect and Davis Hughes, Minister of Public Works.

Part Two of the documentary detailing the story from 1963 through to the present day. The Opera House Project.
Part Two of the documentary detailing the story from 1963 through to the present day. The Opera House Project.
Part Three of the documentary details the many performances and events that have taken place at the House every day and night since 1973. The Opera House Project.
Part Three of the documentary details the many performances and events that have taken place at the House every day and night since 1973. The Opera House Project.
Part Four of the documentary relates perspectives on Sydney's iconic promontory, Bennelong Point. The Opera House Project.
Part Four of the documentary relates perspectives on Sydney’s iconic promontory, Bennelong Point. The Opera House Project.
The 3d section uses animations and an interactive environment to explain complex design and engineering ideas. The Opera House Project.
The 3d section uses animations and an interactive environment to explain complex design and engineering ideas. The Opera House Project.
There are many ways to watch and approach over 26 hours of content and the site encourages users to choose routes best for them. The Opera House Project.
There are many ways to watch and approach over 26 hours of content and the site encourages users to choose routes best for them. The Opera House Project.

Below, an example of the 3d animations produced for the project in order to convey some of the more complex architectural and engineering principles at work. This animation was designed to show how the very complex ingenuity of deriving the prefabricated form of the roof of Sydney Opera House from the surfaces of spheres can be conveyed rather simply without words.

Watch an interview about the project on Sydney Opera House's Play Channel
Watch an interview about the project on Sydney Opera House’s Play Channel

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