With its iconic design that looks like a carefully balanced assemblage of white shells (or to some, a rack of stacked dishes) on Bennelong Point, the Sydney Opera House – Australia's most famous landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site – is an indisputable masterpiece of human creativity.
More than 200 designs were submitted when then state premier Joseph Cahill announced an international competition to build a ‘national opera house’ at Bennelong Point in February 1956, and the story behind the design we know today is filled with so much drama it could rival any opera you’d see on its various stages.
Relatively unknown, 38-year-old Danish architect Jørn Utzon won the competition with his sculptural design (one of 12 submissions considered), which would go on to transform not only his career, but also the image of the nation. Sadly, Joseph Cahill would never see his dream realised – the premier died before construction was completed, 17 years after the design competition was held. Even Utzon himself would also never see his masterpiece realised. After a stoush with the minister for works over spiraling costs, Ultzon resigned and left the country, never to return.
But what would city life be like if one of the other 222 competition entries was picked? The cultural institution taking pride of place at Circular Quay could have an entirely different vibe. UK-based creative studio NeoMam unearthed seven of the best entries and created these incredible digital renderings, as commissioned by Budget Direct Travel Insurance, to give us a glimpse of just how differently Sydney could have looked.
It is interesting to note that no limit was set on the budget available to build the winning entry. The contest allowed architects to enter any number of drawings, as long as they were in black and white. It was also pointed out that architects would need to allow space for at least 100 cars to park on-site – mostly those of the orchestra.