Blog Menu

Sydney Icon

October 24, 2009

Filed under: travel — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

The Opera House in Sydney, Australia is one of the most recognized man-made structures in the world. My wife and I got an up-close look at the outside of the Opera House 12 years ago, but tours of the inside were not being conducted the day we were there. I’ve always wanted to see the interior and was given the opportunity last week. The 60-minute guided tour included some history that I found fascinating.

The Sydney Opera House was designed and largely built by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. The project was launched in March 1959 and was scheduled to take three years to build at a cost of $7 million. It ended up costing $102 million and took 16 years to complete. A major problem was the construction of the roof. No one knew exactly how the claim-shell style covering would be built, even though construction of the foundation and other parts of the Opera House had been underway for years.

The design involved some of the earliest work using computer-based structural analysis software. Engineers worked through more than a dozen iterations of the roof design as they tried to find an economically-acceptable method. With Utzon’s help, engineers decided to use ribs to support the complex design. Some may refer to the roof structures as shells, but they are not. Instead, they are precast concrete panels supported by precast ribs. This approach made it possible to cast arches of varying length in a common mold. The Opera House consists of 10 roofs, all formed from a hemisphere and each having the same radius.

If you find yourself in Sydney, plan some time to see the Opera House. And, time it so that you can also see the inside. You won’t regret it.

Patience in Portugal

October 10, 2009

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 13:31

This week while in Portugal, I was reminded of how kind and gracious the Portuguese can be. They will go to great lengths to ensure that their guests are looked after and happy. Most Americans, Europeans, or Asians will not invite business acquaintances to stay in their homes when they are traveling on business, but some Portuguese will jump at the opportunity. In the end, the guests leave feeling fortunate to have had the opportunity to strengthen a friendship and get a much closer look at life of the Portuguese.

About every part of the world offers something peculiar. I was reminded this week of the way in which the Portuguese handle the start times of meetings. Some of us are driven by Outlook, alarms on our calendars and phones, and other devices that drive our days. The Portuguese may use some of these same tools, but it is understood in much of the country that meetings usually start later than what is published. It is not openly discussed, although the locals know that 09:00 really means 09:15, 09:20, or even 09:30 or later. I suppose this system works okay if you’re familiar with it, but visitors from other countries find it baffling.

The Germans and Japanese are about precision, even when it comes to the start of meetings. In Portugal, they become nervous, anxious, and even perplexed when arriving in time for a meeting to find almost no one present. Some time later, others begin to arrive and the meeting eventually begins, with no mention of the delay. This relaxed style is the way it is in Portugal and it can take some time to fully understand and appreciate it.

In or around 2003, as I recall, the prime minister of Portugal was scheduled to make an important statement on national television. Its purpose was to announce that Portugal would adopt a new policy of eliminating delays and starting on time. I suppose the thinking was that if this would happen, less time would be wasted and the country, as a whole, would become more productive. As it turned out, he was late for the start of the broadcast.