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How long did the Sydney Opera House take to build?

It's time for a "this day in history" post! Today's topic is one of the most iconic structures from the 20th century, the Sydney Opera House, which sits on Bennelong Point in Sydeny, Australia.


An international design competition was held in 1956 for the design of the oprea house. 233 designs were submitted for the Opera House. Jørn Utzon from Denmark was announced the winner, receiving ₤5000 for his design.


The original cost estimate to build Sydney Opera House was $7 million and construction was expected to take four years... It took 14 years. Work commenced in 1959 and involved 10,000 construction workers. The final cost was $102 million and it was largely paid for by a State Lottery.


The first person to preform at Sydney Opera House was Paul Robeson. In 1960, he climbed the scaffolding and sang Ol' Man River to the construction workers as they ate lunch, over a decade before the doors were open.


Unfortunately, Jørn Utzon was not given the chance to complete the project due to the mounting cost and extended time, combined with a new government change. Utzon wanted to maintain control over the project and not sacrifice design for cost. At noon on February 28, 1966, Utzon met with Davis Hughes and walked out after Hughes declined giving him needed funds for prototypes. Just 3 days later, 1000 people marched on State Parliament  through the streets of Sydney led by architect Harry Seidler, author Patrick White and others, who demanded that Utzon be reinstated. A further rally organized by a group that called itself  ‘Utzon-in-Charge’ was held and a petition of 3000 signatures was delivered to Premier Askin.


There were attempts made to repair the relationship with Utzon, however he was never formally invited back to finish the project. He was an artist who was unwilling to see his vision compromised, and he never returned to Australia to see how his building had been completed by others.


Sydney Opera House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on October 20, 1973. She has since visited four times, most recently in 2006. A year later, Sydney Opera House was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List. More than 10.9 million people visit the Opera House every year.




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