Souveniring the Sydney Opera House

Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Things that Move: The Material Worlds of Tourism, 2007, pp. 1 - 13
Issue Date:
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The Sydney Opera House attracts over four million visitors each year to experience its architecture, events and cultural narratives. This experience consciously engages tourists in a constructed spatial encounter, in which the tourist has the opportunity to experience the architecture of this canonical modernist building. This experience often culminates with the purchase of a souvenir, a seemingly innocuous act, but one that is highly revealing of the interrelation between the tourist's experience, the architecture and the souvenir. There has already been much scholarly work on the Sydney Opera House, discussing its architecture, the historical and political context of its commission and its symbolic meaning within the City of Sydney. Less attention however has been paid to the relationship between architecture, experience and memory, as embodied by the souvenir. The tea towels, snow domes, table lights and key rings which depict the Sydney Opera House are, as Celeste Olalquiaga states "static and idealized blueprint... of an experience." This raises debate over what exactly is souvenired; is it the building? The experience? Cultural cachet? What can be revealed about the architecture of the Sydney Opera House, through its souvenirs? Architecture, like souvenirs is party to questions of representation, abstraction and scale. By drawing upon the work of Stewart and Olalquiaga, on the experience of souvenirs, the essay takes an architectural position from which to discuss the way models as objects of architecture and souvenir miniatures are the material representations which commemorate and facilitate a dynamic and ephemeral experience of this building. In this way revealing souvenirs as more than markers of travel, but as Stewart asserts, containers of the cultural narratives, desires and myths, which surround such an iconic architectural destination.
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