House designs

Seven of Sydney Opera House’s best designs that were rejected

Here are seven designs that weren’t finalized for the design of the now famous Sydney Opera House. While they never made it past the design stage, they’re quite interesting in themselves and highlight what could have been instead of the stunning design we have now.

Architect Jørn Utzon’s range of concrete shells is so far-fetched that we couldn’t help but wonder what some of the other 222 entries in the competition might have looked like. So we found seven of the best and brought them to life in a series of renderings.

1. Design of the Philadoperaelphia collaboration group


Second place in the competition went to this submarine-shaped opera, created by an improvised team of seven designers in Philadelphia. Like the winning design, the structure was inspired by the shape of the seashell and had to use the latest techniques for using concrete.

It may have been capped at the post, but the Philadelphia team continued to work together after those promising beginnings, forming award-winning design group Geddes Brecher Qualls Cunningham (GBQC).


2. The design of Paul Boissevain and Barbara Osmond

The entry for the Dutch-British team was rather conservative next to the concrete seashells of Marzella and Utzon, which is why they were relegated to third place in the competition.

However, the judges were impressed with the human size of the building and its promenade. And the square design and emphasis on walking can’t help but recall the sloping floor-to-roof walkway of the Oslo Opera House in Norway, built fifty years after the unrealized vision of Boissevain and Osmond.


3. The conception of Sir Eugene Goossen

Although he never entered the competition, the design created by Sir Eugene Goossen could have been made because the designer wielded considerable political influence.

Gossen was not only the conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, but also the director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music and one of the key voices in demanding the construction of an opera house.


4. The design of Peter Kollar and Balthazar Korab

Refugees from the Communist regime in Hungary, the entrance of Kollar and Korab was the highest entrance to an Australian entity. The judges commented on the “very skillful planning” of the project.

But coming fourth in the contest didn’t mean the end for Kollar, who was instrumental in the ultimately unsuccessful campaign to keep Jørn Utzon in charge of the construction project after the Dane fell out with the NSW government.


5. Design by SW Milburn and partners

The design of Stanley Wayman Milburn and Eric Dow was not that different from the box shape with promenade of Boissevain and Osmond.

But Milburn and Dow hid their ride under the elevated building and planted a helicopter runway on the roof, presumably in case the driver needed to get somewhere in a hurry.


6. Vine and vine design

The sprawling opera house of the English company Vine and Vine consisted of two auditoriums, separated by a restaurant. Like many of their competitors, the Vines provided for an outdoor space – in their case with a waterfront plaza below.

But two auditoriums were one too many for the judges, who relegated the company building, with its bright red facade, to history.


7. Kelly and Gruzen’s design

The entrance to this collaborative group echoes that of Les Vignes with its courtyards below. But there is also a certain Vegas spice in the entry of the American team.

Founded in 1932 by Barnett Sumner Gruzen and Colonel Hugh A. Kelly, “Kelly and Gruzen” continues to operate as an IBE group today.

It took 17 years after the competition for Joseph Cahill’s dream to come true, and sadly he has passed away in the meantime. But Utzon’s winning entry has become one of the defining symbols of Australian culture, securing UNESCO World Heritage Site status half a century after the initial competition for its design.

Special thanks to to provide the information.

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