Utzon entered the "international competition for a national opera house at Bennelong Point" expecting to come third. His design was initially flung into the reject pile, but picked out again by US architect Eero Saarinen. Seidler described it as a "piece of poetry" and American Louis Khan said that "light didn't know how beautiful it was, until it was reflected off this building".
Utzon received the prestigious Pritzker architecture prize in 2003 for his design. The jury singled it out as among the most iconic buildings of the 20th century, saying it "proves that the marvellous and seemingly impossible in architecture can be achieved".