What the Opera House COULD have looked like: Extraordinary pictures show how Sydney dodged a bullet 

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What the Opera House COULD have looked like: Extraordinary pictures show how Sydney dodged a bullet

  • NSW Government shows some of the designs considered for the Opera House
  • The rejected entries were among the 233 submitted in the mid 1950s
  • Jørn Utzon’s design won an international competition beating 232 others 


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Sydney’s iconic Opera House is regarded as one of the most stunning buildings around the globe, but it could have looked very different had another designer taken out the top prize.

The NSW Government shared images of six rejected designs on Facebook, transposed on the current site to show how they’d look today.

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 The images sparked outrage from social media users, with some being compared to ‘a trendy high school’, an Ikea store and a giant ‘air filter’.

The NSW Government has released images of six rejected Opera House designs on Facebook, transposed on the current site to show how they'd look today.  Pictured is the seashell-inspired entry by Philadelphia architects Robert Geddes and George Quall - which came second

The NSW Government has released images of six rejected Opera House designs on Facebook, transposed on the current site to show how they’d look today.  Pictured is the seashell-inspired entry by Philadelphia architects Robert Geddes and George Quall – which came second 

Si Eugene Goossens', a famous English conductor convicted on pornography charges in 1956, produced a design compared by Facebook users to a power station or 'cigarette display'

Si Eugene Goossens’, a famous English conductor convicted on pornography charges in 1956, produced a design compared by Facebook users to a power station or ‘cigarette display’

Building commenced on Jørn Utzon's winning design in 1958, though it wasn't completed until 1973, with a different designer, Australian Peter Hall in charge

Building commenced on Jørn Utzon’s winning design in 1958, though it wasn’t completed until 1973, with a different designer, Australian Peter Hall in charge

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The post included six entries to the international competition that decided its look, including one by disgraced pornographer Sir Eugene Goossens, who convinced the then-Premier Joseph Cahill that Sydney needed an opera house.  

Also included was the seashell-inspired entry by Philadelphia architects Robert Geddes and George Quall – which came second.

The competition drew 233 entries from 32 countries. 

Building commenced on Jørn Utzon’s winning design in 1958, though it wasn’t completed for 15 years, with a different designer, Peter Hall in charge. 

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Social media had a field day with the images, with commenters producing hilarious nicknames for the failed entries.

Strangest of all was the Philadelphian entry by Mr Geddes and Mr Quall, which came so close to being built. 

Sydneysider Rachel Allen quipped it ‘looks like an air filter’, while others thought it looked like a slide projector carousel or ‘the command centre from the power rangers’.

The multi-coloured an contemporary-looking design by Hungarian immigrants László Peter Kollar and Balthazar Korab was a clear second favourite in the options posted by the NSW Government

The multi-coloured an contemporary-looking design by Hungarian immigrants László Peter Kollar and Balthazar Korab was a clear second favourite in the options posted by the NSW Government

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The back of Kollar and Korab's design shows what an innovative design it also was for the time

The back of Kollar and Korab’s design shows what an innovative design it also was for the time

Mr Goossens’, a famous English conductor convicted on pornography charges in 1956, produced a design compared by Facebook users to a power station, a ‘neo-Mormon’ building or ‘an art deco mausoleum for some tacky billionaire’.

Michelle Hawkless dubbed it ‘Cubie McBlockview’ while Donald White said it looked like a ‘cigarette display’.

The orange and cream design by English architects Vine and Vine looked like a ‘trying to be trendy High school’. 

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Chilli Hernandez joked that the giant rectangular design by another English firm, SW Milburn and Partners, reminded her of a piece of Ikea furniture

Chilli Hernandez joked that the giant rectangular design by another English firm, SW Milburn and Partners, reminded her of a piece of Ikea furniture

Critics of Kelly and Gruzen's designer joked that it looked a like a Las Vegas casino

Critics of Kelly and Gruzen’s designer joked that it looked a like a Las Vegas casino

Paul Boissevain and Barbara Osmond's design reminded Valerie O'Doherty of a 'public hospital'

Paul Boissevain and Barbara Osmond’s design reminded Valerie O’Doherty of a ‘public hospital’

The Sydney Opera House took 15 years to complete and became one of the 20th century's most famous buildings

The Sydney Opera House took 15 years to complete and became one of the 20th century’s most famous buildings

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The multi-coloured an contemporary-looking design by Hungarian immigrants László Peter Kollar and Balthazar Korab was a clear second favourite in the options posted by the NSW Government.

‘I think this is the only other design that is interesting enough. But I am glad we got the Opera house that was chosen,’ wrote Riannon Bull.

Paul Boissevain and Barbara Osmond’s design reminded Valerie O’Doherty of a ‘public hospital’. 

Chilli Hernandez joked that the giant rectangular design by another English firm, SW Milburn and Partners, reminded her of a piece of Ikea furniture.

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Another, by Kelly and Gruzen, looked a like a Las Vegas casino. 

The Opera House Project:

  1. The original cost estimate to build Sydney Opera House was $7 million. The final cost was $102 million and it was largely paid for by a State Lottery. 
  2. Construction was expected to take four years. It took 14 years. Work commenced in 1959 and involved 10,000 construction workers. 
  3. Sydney Opera House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on October, 20, 1973. She has since visited four times, most recently in 2006.  

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