Sydney is located on Australia’s south-east coast. The city is built around Port Jackson, which includes Sydney Harbour, leading to the city’s nickname, “the Harbour City”. It is noted for the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, and its beaches. The metropolitan area is surrounded by national parks, and contains many bays, rivers and inlets. It is listed as a beta world city by the Loughborough University group’s 1999 inventory. The city has hosted international sporting, political and cultural events, including the 1938 British Empire Games, 2000 Summer Olympics and the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In September 2007, the city hosted the leaders of the 21 APEC economies for APEC Australia 2007, and in July 2008 will host World Youth Day 2008. The main airport serving Sydney is Sydney Airport.
Sydney is one of the most multicultural cities in the world which reflects its role as a major destination for immigrants to Australia. According to the Mercer cost of living survey, Sydney is Australia’s most expensive city, and the 21st most expensive in the world.
Geography & Climate
Sydney is in a coastal basin bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Blue Mountains to the west, the Hawkesbury River to the north and the Royal National Park to the south. Sydney lies on a submergent coastline, where the ocean level has risen to flood deep river valleys (ria) carved in the hawkesbury sandstone. One of these drowned valleys, Port Jackson, better known as Sydney Harbour, is the largest natural harbour in the world. There are more than 70 harbour and ocean beaches, including the famous Bondi Beach, in the urban area. Sydney’s urban area covers 1,687 km² (651 sq mi) as at 2001. The Sydney Statistical Division, used for census data, is the unofficial metropolitan area and covers 12,145 km² (4,689 sq mi). This area includes the Central Coast and Blue Mountains as well as broad swathes of national park and other unurbanised land. Geographically, Sydney sprawls over two major regions: the Cumberland Plain, a relatively flat region lying to the south and west of the harbour, and the Hornsby Plateau, a sandstone plateau lying mainly to the north of the harbour, dissected by steep valleys. The oldest parts of the city are located in the flat areas south of the harbour; the North Shore was slower to develop because of its hilly topography, and was mostly a quiet backwater until the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932, linking it to the rest of the city.
Sydney has a temperate climate with warm summers and mild winters, with rainfall spread throughout the year. The weather is moderated by proximity to the ocean, and more extreme temperatures are recorded in the inland western suburbs. The warmest month is January, with an average air temperature range at Observatory Hill of 18.6-25.8 °C (65.5-78.4 °F) and an average of 14.6 days a year over 30 °C (86.0 °F). The maximum recorded temperature was 45.3 °C (113.5 °F) on 14 January 1939 at the end of a 4 day nationwide heat wave. The winter is mildly cool, with temperatures rarely dropping below 5 °C (41 °F) in coastal areas. The coldest month is July, with an average range of 8-16.2 °C (46.4-61.2 °F). The lowest recorded minimum was 2.1 °C (35.8 °F). Rainfall is fairly evenly divided between summer and winter, but is slightly higher during the first half of the year, when easterly winds dominate. The average annual rainfall, with moderate to low variability, is 1,217 mm (48 in), falling on an average 138 days a year. Snowfall last occurred in the Sydney City area in the 1830s.
Although the city does not suffer from cyclones or significant earthquakes, the El Niño Southern Oscillation plays an important role in determining Sydney’s weather patterns: drought and bushfire on the one hand, and storms and flooding on the other, associated with the opposite phases of the oscillation. Many areas of the city bordering bushland have experienced bushfires, notably in 1994 and 2001-02 — these tend to occur during the spring and summer. The city is also prone to severe hail storms and wind storms. One such storm was the 1999 hailstorm, which severely damaged Sydney’s eastern and city suburbs. The storm produced massive hailstones of at least 9 cm (3.5 in) in diameter and resulting in insurance losses of around AUD $1.7 billion in less than five hours. The city is also prone to flash flooding from enormous amounts of rain caused by East Coast Lows (a low pressure depression which deepens off the state usually in winter and early spring which can bring significant damage by heavy rain, cyclonic winds and huge swells). The most notable event was the great Sydney flood which occurred on 6 August 1986 and dumped a record 327.6 mm (12.9 in) on the city in 24 hours. This caused major traffic chaos and damage in many parts of the metropolitan area.
The Bureau of Meteorology has reported that 2002 through 2005 were the warmest summers in Sydney since records began in 1859. 2004 had an average daily maximum temperature of 23.39 °C, 2005 – 23.35 °C, 2002 – 22.91 °C and 2003 – 22.65 °C. The average daily maximum between 1859 and 2004 was 21.6 °C (70.9 °F). For the first nine months of 2006 the mean temperature was 18.41 °C (65.1 °F); the warmest year previously was 2004 with 18.51 °C (65.32 °F). Since November 2003, there have been only two months in which the average daily maximum was below average: March 2005 (about 1 °C below average) and June 2006 (0.7 °C below average).
However, the summer of 2007-08 proved to be one of the coolest on record. The Bureau of Meteorology reported that it was the coolest summer in 11 years, the wettest summer in six years, and one of only three summers in recorded history to lack a maximum temperature above 31 °C (88 °F).
Sydney’s central business district (CBD) extends southwards for about 3 kilometres (1.25 mi) from Sydney Cove, the point of the first European settlement in the area at the southern end of the bridge known as “The Rocks”. Densely concentrated skyscrapers and other buildings including historic sandstone buildings such as the Sydney Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building are interspersed by several parks such as Wynyard and Hyde Park. The Sydney CBD is bounded on the east side by a chain of parkland that extends from Hyde Park through the Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens to Farm Cove on the harbour. The west side is bounded by Darling Harbour, a popular tourist and nightlife precinct while Central station marks the southern end of the CBD. George Street serves as the Sydney CBD’s main north-south thoroughfare.
As the site of earliest European settlement in Australia, the CBD contains many other historic buildings such as the Sydney Mint, one of Australia’s oldest buildings, Fort Denison, a penal site which was built in the colonial days on a small island situated on the harbour, as well as heritage listed buildings in The Rocks. The area also boasts well known modern architectural sites such as the Sydney Opera House and Martin Place.
Although the CBD dominated the city’s business and cultural life in the early days, other business/cultural districts have developed in a radial pattern since World War II. As a result, the proportion of white-collar jobs located in the CBD declined from more than 60 per cent at the end of World War II to less than 30 per cent in 2004. Together with the commercial district of North Sydney, joined to the CBD by the Harbour Bridge, the most significant outer business districts are Parramatta in the central-west, Penrith in the west, Bondi Junction in the east, Liverpool in the southwest, Chatswood to the north, and Hurstville to the south.
The extensive area covered by urban Sydney is formally divided into more than 300 suburbs (for addressing and postal purposes), and administered as 38 local government areas. There is no city-wide government, but the Government of New South Wales and its agencies have extensive responsibilities in providing metropolitan services. The City of Sydney itself covers a fairly small area comprising the central business district and its neighbouring inner-city suburbs. In addition, regional descriptions are used informally to conveniently describe larger sections of the urban area. These include Eastern Suburbs, Hills District, Inner West, Canterbury-Bankstown, Lower North Shore, Northern Beaches, Northern Suburbs, North Shore, St George, Southern Sydney, South-eastern Sydney, South-western Sydney, Sutherland Shire and Western Sydney. However, many suburbs are not conveniently covered by any of these categories.
Sydney hosts many different festivals and some of Australia’s largest social and cultural events. These include the Sydney Festival, Australia’s largest arts festival which is a celebration involving both indoor and free outdoor performances throughout January; the Biennale of Sydney, established in 1973; the Big Day Out, a travelling rock music festival which originated in Sydney; the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras along Oxford Street; the Sydney Film Festival and many other smaller film festivals such as the short film Tropfest and Flickerfest. Australia’s premier prize for portraiture, the Archibald Prize is organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The Sydney Royal Easter Show is held every year at Sydney Olympic Park, the final of Australian Idol takes place on the steps of the Opera House, and Australian Fashion Week takes place in April/May. Also, Sydney’s New Years Eve and Australia Day celebrations are the largest in Australia.
Sydney has a wide variety of cultural institutions. Sydney’s iconic Opera House has five theatres capable of hosting a range of performance styles; it is the home of Opera Australia—the third busiest opera company in the world, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Other venues include the Sydney Town Hall, City Recital Hall, the State Theatre and the Wharf Theatre.
The Sydney Dance Company under the leadership of Graeme Murphy during the late 20th century has also gained acclaim. The Sydney Theatre Company has a regular roster of local plays, such as noted playwright David Williamson, classics and international playwrights.
In 2007, New Theatre (Newtown) celebrates 75 years of continuous production in Sydney. Other important theatre companies in Sydney include Company B and Griffin Theatre Company. From the 1940s through to the 1970s the Sydney Push, a group of authors and political activists whose members included Germaine Greer, influenced the city’s cultural life.
The National Institute of Dramatic Art, based in Kensington, boasts internationally famous alumni such as Mel Gibson, Judy Davis, Baz Luhrmann and Cate Blanchett. Sydney’s role in the film industry has increased since the opening of Fox Studios Australia in 1998. Prominent films which have been filmed in the city include Moulin Rouge!, Mission Impossible II, Star Wars episodes II and III, Superman Returns, Dark City, Dil Chahta Hai, Happy Feet and The Matrix. Films using Sydney as a setting include Finding Nemo, Strictly Ballroom, Mission Impossible II, Muriel’s Wedding, and Dirty Deeds. As of 2006, over 229 films have been set in, or featured Sydney.
Sydney’s most popular nightspots include Kings Cross, Oxford Street, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay and The Rocks which all contain various bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Star City Casino, is Sydney’s only casino and is situated around Darling Harbour. There are also many traditional pubs, cafes and restaurants in inner city areas such as Newtown, Balmain and Leichhardt. Sydney’s main live music hubs include areas such as Newtown and Annandale. It once had a thriving live music scene in the 1970s and 1980s, nurturing acts such as AC/DC, Midnight Oil and INXS. Other popular nightspots tend to be spread throughout the city in areas such as Bondi, Manly and Parramatta.
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site on June 28, 2007. Based on the competition winning entry by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the Sydney Opera House is one of the world’s most distinctive 20th century buildings, and one of the most famous performing arts venues in the world. It was among the 20 selected finalists in the 2007 New Seven Wonders of the World project.
The Sydney Opera House is situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The building and its surroundings are one of the best known icons of Australia.
As well as many touring theatre, ballet, and musical productions, the Opera House is the home of Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony. It is administered by the Sydney Opera House Trust, under the New South Wales Ministry of the Arts.
The Sydney Opera House is an expressionist modern design, with a series of large precast concrete ‘shells’, each taken from a hemisphere of the same radius, forming the roofs of the structure. The Opera House covers 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres) of land. It is 183 metres (605 feet) long and about 120 metres (388 feet) wide at its widest point. It is supported on 588 concrete piers sunk up to 25 metres below sea level. Its power supply is equivalent for a town of 25,000 people. The power is distributed by 645 kilometres of electrical cable.
The roofs of the House are covered with 1.056 million glossy white and matte cream Swedish-made tiles, though from a distance the tiles look only white. Despite their self-cleaning nature, they are still subject to periodic maintenance and replacement.
The Concert Hall and Opera Theatre are each contained in the two largest groups of shells, and the other theatres are located on the sides of the shell groupings. The form of the shells is chosen to reflect the internal height requirements, rising from the low entrance spaces, over the seating areas and up to the high stage towers. A much smaller group of shells set to one side of the Monumental steps houses the Bennelong Restaurant. Although the roof structures of the Sydney Opera House are commonly referred to as shells (as they are in this article), they are in fact not shells in a strictly structural sense, but are instead precast concrete panels supported by precast concrete ribs. The building’s interior is composed of pink granite quarried in Tarana and wood and brush box plywood supplied from Wauchope in northern New South Wales.
The Sydney Opera House contains five main performance spaces, other areas used for performances, a recording studio, five restaurants, and four souvenir shops.
The five venues making up the main performance facilities:
The Concert Hall, with 2,679 seats, is the home of the Sydney Symphony, and used by a large number of other concert presenters. It contains the Sydney Opera House Grand Organ, the largest mechanical tracker action organ in the world with over 10,000 pipes.
The Opera Theatre, a proscenium theatre with 1,547 seats, is the Sydney home of Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.
The Drama Theatre, a proscenium theatre with 544 seats, is used by the Sydney Theatre Company and other dance and theatrical presenters.
The Playhouse, an end-stage theatre with 398 seats.
The Studio, a flexible space, with a maximum capacity of 400 people, depending on configuration.
Other spaces used for performances and other events include:
The Utzon Room , a small multi-purpose venue, seating up to 210. It is the only interior space to have been designed by Utzon, having been renovated in 2004 under his direction.
The Forecourt, a flexible open-air venue with a wide range of configuration options, including utilising the Monumental Steps as audience seating, used for a range of community events, Live Sites, and special-occasion performances
Besides theatrical productions and concerts, venues at the Sydney Opera House are also used for activities such as conferences, ceremonies, and social functions.