A National Opera House
On 15 February 1956, New South Wales Premier Joe Cahill released a competition program and guidelines for “a National Opera House at Bennelong Point”.The idea for such a venue had been discussed for decades, yet it was not until the mid-50s that it gained enough political traction to become a reality. Cahill was encouraged by a delegation of cultural figures, including: the conductor of Sydney Symphony Orchestra and director of the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music, Sir Eugene Goossens; the orchestra’s first conductor, Sir Bernard Heinze; and members of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of New South Wales, Harry Ashworth and George Molnar.Known as the Brown Book, the competition guidelines represented the initial brief for the project, and while they would vary dramatically from the finished building, must have seemed like a tremendous opportunity to both aspiring and established architects the world over. Competitors were required to register for the competition by paying a fee of 10 Australian pounds, in response to which they were sent the Brown Book.The competition was open for 11 months, closing in December 1956. Judging began a few weeks later, in January 1957. Danish architect Jørn Utzon’s design was numbered 218 – one of the last of more than 220 entries received from 28 countries.