Sydney is such an iconic city that is full of Australian historical and cultural significance – it reflects the country’s character. The iconic city, itself, is an architectural phenomenon with a balance of scenic nature and a skyscraper jungle which is so lively, it takes on a life of its own.
In 1788, the Rocks became the first penal colony and the beginning of the European invasion. The traditional owners of the land are the Gadigal, of the Eora Nation. In this area, there are multiple heritage sites. It is also home to the oldest European buildings in Australia.
I remember being a nine year old on the edge of my seat watching Pixar’s Finding Nemo for the first time. When Marlin and Dory arrived at Sydney Harbour, I felt a great sense of awe towards the Sydney Opera House as it glowed in full view. It was the first time I had ever seen such a peculiar looking building and I was so taken by this intriguing landmark that I promised myself I would see it one day. Fifteen years later, I stood on the steps of the Sydney Opera House feeling the same sense of awe that I did as a child. Being able to see this world renowned architectural masterpiece in person gave me a great deal of pride for this accomplishment. For this reason, the Sydney Opera House will always hold a very dear place in my heart.
The birth of the Sydney Opera House started with an international architectural design competition. The winner was a Danish architect named Jørn Utzon who began construction in 1959. It was projected to take four years to build but ended up taking fourteen years. The delay was due to setbacks caused by unique challenges from spearheading this design, the succession of Governments, and ultimately the differences in agendas. Eventually Utzon resigned and the remainder of construction was executed by the Hall, Todd, and Littlemore partnership.
My favorite feature of the building is the white curved structures (reffered to as shells) that were made to look like sails from a ship billowing in the wind. It was as if Jørn Utzon imagined that the Sydney Opera House would one day detach from its home on Bennelong Point and float along the Sydney Harbour.
The construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge marked Australia’s industrial footprint in the world and a major architectural milestone. The bridge design is a two-hinged steel arch with five approach spans at each end and four pylons. It is 1149 meters long and 49 meters wide and it took 52,800 tonnes of steel to build it. The steel arch provides stability to accommodate four railway lines, six roadways, and two sidewalks. Sydneysiders affectionately nicknamed the Sydney Harbour Bridge the “Giant Coat Hanger” and deemed a national icon.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-see location for the museum buff like myself. I loved the painting on the wall next to the entrance because it tells a story of the patience requried for immigration. The unique use of vibrant red and yellow colors really pops out as soon as you walk through the door. Khadim Ali describes the demons as a representation of his historical self and of all who are displaced or “shelterless” in the world. The eucalypti foliage at the top represents Australia (as it is depicted on the passport) and is made with real gold. The comparison of demons and immigrants is a very truthful art because immigrants are commonly demonized or dehumanized by many in the world. The body language shows the demons waiting or sitting down staring off in the distance, as if in limbo and wondering if a land of peace and opportunity would accept them. Khadim Ali is an immigrant from the Hazara community of Central Afghanistan. I assume the making of this piece was a very personal journey for him because the feeling of wanting to be welcomed is so prominent. It is unforgettable and beautiful in the way it shines a light to the immigrants search for home.
Sticky is a candy shop that is fun to go to for the candy, of course, but also the experience of watching the magic of making hard candy. They melt the candy, put them on metal trays, roll the block of malleable candy, and then cut them in to tiny pieces. The candy makers may be nice enough to give you a piece of warm candy to try.
The Royal Botanical Garden of Sydney is really something to appreciate not only for its beauty, but for its history as well. As the oldest scientific institution in Australia, it has been the site of groundbreaking collection and cultivation of a variety of plants from around the world.
Hyde Park is the oldest parkland in Australia. It is the perfect place for a walk in the central business district because it is lined with beautiful fig trees. Apparently before it became a park, Hyde was Aboriginal contest ground where conflicts would be solved by fighting it out. My favorite feature of Hyde Park is the Archibald Fountain, designed by the French artist François-Léon Sicard.
While in Sydney, if you have the time for a beach day, take the ferry to Manly Beach. After visiting I understood why it was so popular, especially for surfing because the waves seem to be never ending.
As a beach lover, I gravitated to Bondi Beach because of the perfect weather and nice scenic hikes around the waters.
I had to say goodbye to Sydney in the most epic way possible, so I went to Pylon Lookout for my second and last time that year. The view showed every direction of the city, absolutely taking my breath away.