Teacher unearths story behind Sydney’s priceless gift

It’s such an inspirational story about following your dream against the odds.

Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic buildings on earth, yet the story of the man behind it, and the challenges he faced, is much lesser known.

Patrician Brothers’ College Fairfield teacher and long term IEU member Anthony Chidiac has tried to address that with a new book, The Priceless Gift, which is a biography of ground breaking Danish architect Jorn Utzon, who came up with the amazing design despite opposition from local politicians and powerbrokers.

Chidiac’s self published book has reached the top 10 best selling spot on Amazon Australia and the number one spot for art books and biographies aimed at teenagers.

The paperback contains artwork by Michael Arvithis that brings to life the symbolic building.

With experience teaching HSIE topics, counselling adolescents and teaching students with diverse needs, Chidiac has a broad understanding of the curriculum, and feels the book covers a lot of ground. He also consulted with colleagues at Patrician Brothers as he was writing it.

“It’s a many layered story, there’s maths in there because Utzon had to used spherical geometry to make this design work,” Chidiac said.

“There’s literacy in the word choice, and art in the illustrations.

“There’s religion as it talks about creating and using your gifts. There’s history as the site was used as a dumping ground for oyster shells by Aboriginal women. Convict women later turned those shells into cement used to build Government House, and then the shell like form of the Opera House sprang from the site like a phoenix.”

The book has been a labour of love, with Anthony starting it in 2008, and then not revisiting it until 2017.

At one stage it seemed the book was lost from his hard drive, but an old USB saved the day.

Chidiac has sent the book to Utzon’s son Jan and to Princess Mary of Denmark. He said his Principal Peter Wade offered to make sure all the school’s feeder primaries have a copy for the library, and his colleagues have bought about 70 copies.

“It’s such an inspirational story about following your dream against the odds, great for students who at times lose hope. Many young people don’t know Utzon’s story and it’s my ambition that there’s one copy of the book in every library.”

The IEU is able to offer members a special giveaway of this book. Email entries to giveaways@ieu.asn.au with the giveaway you are entering in the subject line and your name, membership number and address in the body of the email. All entries to be received by 9 July 2018. The book can be purchased at http://www.thepricelessgift.com.au/