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Sydney's Surprising Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is more amazing—and surprising—in person than any photo could convey. Earlier this month, I headed to the Southern Hemisphere for a vacation in Sydney and Cairns, Australia. The Opera House was, of course, on my list of places to see (though its location on Bennelong Point, which juts out into Sydney Harbor, makes it near impossible to miss).

Not only is the building incredible but so is its story. In 1954, the premier of New South Wales (the state in which Sydney is located) announced a design competition for a new opera house on Bennelong Point, which had previously housed tram sheds that were no longer used (as trams were replaced by buses). Over 200 designs were submitted to the competition, with the winner being young (and relatively unknown) Danish architect Jørn Utzon. The story, as our Opera House tour guide told us, is that Eero Saarinen, one of the judges, arrived late to the judging session and demanded to look through all the of the rejected entries. In the discard pile was Utzon's proposal, which Saarinen declared the best of the entries and which, in 1954, was presented to the residents of Sydney as the winning design.

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