Like A Living Thing: The Evolution of the Sydney Opera House

Like a Living Thing: The Evolution of the Sydney Opera House

By Jillian Burt. Illustrations by Reg Mombassa. $55.00

Please email with “Like A Living Thing” in the subject line to receive purchase information.

The book fleshes out the Sydney Opera House’s role as a symbol, reporting on how the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the resident arts companies, rock musicians and chefs is influencing the building’s evolution ahead of the renewal projects due to be completed in 2024.

In production now. It will be shipped February 23, 2018.

A special edition of 200 “artist’s proofs” contains 5 more pages of illustrations (21 in all) and an expansive interview with Reg Mombassa that won’t be in the standard edition. These artists proofs will only be available for purchase directly from the Editions Ballard studio. This edition will never be available through the Editions Ballard merchant store operated online by Artist First, or in retail outlets.

It has 16 pages of illustrations by artist and musician Reg Mombassa, many of them rare and never previously published or exhibited. He’s practically Australia’s mythmaker-in-chief. His artworks and designs for surfwear company Mambo often include the Sydney Opera House in his analysis of Australian culture.

It will be designed by Melbourne-based artist, graphic designer and musician Adele Daniele.

It has a unique binding based around a “floating” spine construction, invented at Editions Ballard. The spine pieces have ersatz concrete, bronze and ochre finishes, reflecting the materials of the Sydney Opera House. The book is entirely designed, printed, and bound in Australia.

Jillian Burt is an architecture and music critic who was based in the United States for 16 years, writing for many international architecture and design publications, including Blueprint, Metropolis and several, now extinct, Conde Nast shelter magazines. She wrote the liner notes for the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album Push the Sky Away.

The book is written along the timeline and early stages of construction of the underground loading dock, 2011 through 2016, and concludes at the end of 2017. It considers the Sydney Opera House from several deeply reported unique perspectives:

º The furthering of Ove Arup’s ambition for engineering to be considered an art as well as a practical discipline.

º The Sydney Opera House as an iconic rock venue, particularly advanced by Ben Marshall with his intersecting portfolios Contemporary Music, Vivid Live and Graphic.

º The importance of the restaurants and their influence on the architecture: chef Matt Moran’s Opera Bar, Aria Restaurant and Aria Catering. Chef Peter Gilmore’s Bennelong Restaurant.

º The influence of all of the resident arts companies: The Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Sydney Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare, Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet.

º The renewal of the city’s other cultural institutions, including the Walsh Bay precinct and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

º Considering the Sydney Opera House within the its peer group of late modern performing arts centres

—The Adelaide Festival Centre, from the perspective of its architect, John Morphett, from discussions with him shortly before his death at Easter in 2016.

—Arts Centre Melbourne’s Australian Music Vault.

As architecture criticism it is in the orbit of two important books published in 2017.

º The Poisoned Chalice: Peter Hall and the Sydney Opera House by Anne Watson (Opus SOH) which draws upon Peter Hall’s papers and diaries, chronicling the substantial contribution he made in bringing the Sydney Opera House to life.

º Sirius by John Dunn, Benn Peake and Amiera Piscopo (Piper Press) which details from an aesthetic and cultural point of view way the brutalist Sirius building, social housing in the Rocks, should be saved, and richly describes the city the Opera House is a symbol for.


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