In 1957 the competition to design an opera house for Sydney attracted 222 entries from 32 countries. The winner, a Danish architect named Jorn Utzon, had never seen the site and, like many other entrants, had to work from photographs. His design, inspired partly by the sails of yachts on Sydney,s immense and beautiful harbour, and partly by Mayan and Aztec temples in Mexico, was to give Australia its most celebrated and recognizable manmade landmark.
Technically, Utzon,s was the most difficult design to realize, though by far the most unusual and exciting. Both the appearance of the proposed building and its escalating cost provoked heated public debate. The opera house was supposed to open in 1963 and cost $7 million. It actually took ten years longer to construct and cost over $100 million. Most of the extra money was raised by lotteries.
Somehow the project kept moving forward amid incessant argument and violent storms of hostility and utzon resigned in disgust in 1966. The beautiful concrete shells or sails_elliptic paraboloids _proved impossible to construct as originally conceived and the design had to be modified.Thousands of hours of computer time went into solving the difficulties, and the final building is as much a triumph of Ove Arup,s engineering as Utzons design.