A Dish-rack Full of Crockery': Social Significance and the Sydney Opera House

Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand
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Conference Proceeding
Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) Annual Conference, 2008, pp. 1 - 12
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The sculptural roof forms of the Sydney Opera House regularly attract visual analogies in the public mind. Although they are mostly referred to as âsailsâ or âshellsâ they have also been described through humorous metaphors like âa dishrack full of crockeryâ. This particular visual pun, is a reference to a linocut by Eric Thake, produced in 1972, the year before the official opening of the Sydney Opera House. This analogy and its continued popularity to date evidences the social and cultural life of this building. Much of the scholarly on the Sydney Opera House investigates the architecture and the circumstances of its realisation, whilst its reception and social significance, has received little systematic attention. Through Thakeâs linocut, the paper discusses the current limitations in evaluating social significance in an Australian heritage context and proposes an alternative perspective to this problem through two scholars who bring âsubjective experienceâ to bear on the production of meaning. For Gillian Rose, visual artefacts become significant through their embodied experience, whilst Ann Game argues for the inclusion of such usually-excluded subjects like desire, memory, time and the body in the construction of meaning. By bringing these theories to bear on a specific example - Eric Thakeâs visual metaphor for the Sydney Opera House - the paper investigates a new approach to social significance.
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