YACKANDANDAH has lost its link to the Sydney Opera House with the death of architect Bill Wheatland.
He worked side-by-side with Danish architect Joern Utzon on the project in the mid-1960s.
Mr Wheatland moved to the North East in the 1970s after a chance stop in Yackandandah on a drive from Sydney to Melbourne with his wife, Christine.
A colleague on the former Albury Wodonga Development Corporation yesterday paid tribute to Mr Wheatland, who died early last week aged 85.
“He was extremely skilled but didn’t always have the opportunity to express those skills in the style he was hoping,” John Alker-Jones said.
“Bill was an enjoyable fellow to be with and I think that’s very important.”
Six years ago, Mr Wheatland told of how he came to work on the Opera House project.
He had been living in Sweden and was a devotee of Scandanavian architecture and the work of Utzon.
But it was when he returned to Australia that he asked a friend to introduce him to Utzon, who resigned from the project in early 1966 after design changes by the Liberal state government of Robert Askin.
Mr Wheatland drew pride from the first part of the Opera House — specifically the shells and base — being built to the original design.
But the building’s glass walls and the general loss of Utzon’s original vision saddened him.
Mr Alker-Jones said Mr Wheatland was a strong believer in another, generally unknown aspect of Utzon’s architectual genius.
“Utzon was very clever on mass residential buildings,” he said.
“Bill was always wanting to apply those sorts of talents to Albury-Wodonga and I suppose we didn’t rise to that sort of expectation so he could achieve that.
“Bill was perhaps frustrated for many years in not being able to give what his considerable talents were able to provide.”
While he “retired” from the corporation, Mr Wheatland continued to work for many years in his profession.
“I am still working as an architect and Yackandandah has been a source of great inspiration to me,” he said in 2007.
At the time Mr Wheatland revealed how he ignored Utzon’s directions to burn much of the original paperwork from the Opera House project, instead donating it all to the Mitchell Library in Sydney.
A memorial service for Mr Wheatland was held at Wooragee Hall on Monday afternoon.