Simanaitis Says

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ENCOUNTERING AN ARCHITECTURAL nickname reminded me of asking directions in Birmingham, England. Here are tidbits on both Nuns in a Scrum and The Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

The Sydney Opera House. What a great name for the iconic opera house in Sydney Harbour: Nuns in a Scrum. What were originally envisioned as sails are likened to white coiffes or cornettes worn by nuns. And rugby-loving Sydneysiders take the assembly of them to resemble a scrummage, the melee deciding which team gains possession of the ball.   

Image from

As noted in Wikipedia, its striking roof structure “involved one of the earliest uses of computers in structural analysis, to understand the complex forces to which the shells would be subjected.” Ultimately, the shells are formed as spherical sections. Though not visible in many photos, the shells are covered in tiles of two different colors, white and a silvery gray. 

Image by Hpeterswald from Wikipedia.

A Complex History. Danish architect Jørn Utzon won a design competition for the performing arts centre in 1957.

At first, things went smoothly between him and the New South Wales government. Soon, though, glaring differences arose among architect, client, engineers, and contractors. Wikipedia notes, “Utzon left the project on 28 February 1966. He said that [new Minister of Public Works] Hughes’s refusal to pay him any fees and the lack of collaboration caused his resignation and later described the situation as ‘Malice in Blunderland.’ In March 1966, Hughes offered him a subordinate role as ‘design architect’ under a panel of executive architects, without any supervisory powers over the House’s construction, but Utzon rejected this. Utzon left the country never to return.”

All’s Well That Ends Well, Eventually: In the late 1990s, reconciliation was achieved. Wikipedia writes, “In 2004, the first interior space rebuilt to an Utzon design was opened and renamed ‘The Utzon Room’ in his honour. It contains an original Utzon tapestry (14.00 x 3.70 metres) called Homage to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Image by Brian Voon Yee Yep from English Wikipedia.

Utzon’s involvement with the Sydney Opera House continued until his death in 2008.

Heritage Enhanced. In 2003, Utzon had won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, its citation reading “There is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House is his masterpiece. It is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world—a symbol for not only a city but a whole country and continent.”

Birmingham’s The River. In Victoria Square, Birmingham, England, there’s a fountain designed by sculptor Dhruva Mistry known as The River. However, I came to know it by its local name. I was enjoying some “early retirement” after a press trip to this city (sorta the Detroit of Britain) and had asked directions to a particular secondhand bookshop. “Easy,” I was instructed, “It’s just off the Floozie in the Jacuzzi.”

The River aka The Floozie in the Jacuzzi, along with its accompanying Youth; the fountain as it appeared in 2005. Image from English Wikipedia.

Another Rich History. Like Utzon, Gujarat-born sculptor Dhruva Mistry won a competition, this time to design a fountain in Birmingham’s Victoria Square. It consists of four works, The River, Guardians, Youth, and Object [Variations]. 

The Floozie, er… The River is a woman of bronze, weighs 1.75 tonne, and sits 9 ft. tall. Her surrounding pool is paved in Wattscliff sandstone. 

Alas, the pool leaked. Beginning in November 2008, the fountain came to be operated only on special occasions and maintenance. Wikipedia notes, “After a £300,000 restoration in 2010 the fountain was turned back on. The work also involved the installation of a new multi-coloured lighting system. After another leak occurred, the water was turned off in 2013 to save costs.”

“As of 6 July 2015,” Wikipedia continued, “the main pool was filled with soil and bedding plants and no longer functions as a fountain.”

The RIver, in 2016. Image by Jo Edkins from Wikipedia.

Wikipedia brings things more or less up to date: “In 2021, work began on refurbishing the fountain to full working order in time for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. In April 2022 the Floozie returned to her base.”

But Wait, There’s More. As reported by itvNews, May 23, 2022, “Thousands of pounds worth of damage has been caused to Birmingham’s iconic Floozie in the Jacuzzi, after the fountain was filled with detergent. It happened merely hours after the fountain was switched on for the first time in nearly seven years.”

Image from itvNews, May 23, 2022.

At least we know for once those Youth are clean. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022

One comment on “NUNS AND THE FLOOZIE

  1. sabresoftware
    June 24, 2022

    A controversial local sculpture, basically a random stack of stainless steel spheres ( has generally been panned by most locals. It was vandalized one night with spray paint, and a local radio commentator quipped that the police already had a preliminary list of suspects, about 1.3 million names long.

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