What comes to your mind when you think of Australia? For us, it is Kangaroos, coastlines and the mighty Sydney Opera House. The country gets millions of international tourists every year and the opera house is one of the most visited. In 2023, 10.9 million people visited the architectural marvel cum performing arts centre.

A World Heritage site, the opera house was touted to be an ambitious project, “…a daring and visionary experiment that has had an enduring influence on the emergent architecture of the late 20th century,” UNESCO said.


The house went through several rounds of design under the capable hands of Danish architect Jorn Utzon. But it was finally the magic of an orange fruit that gave the geometrical sphere of interlocking shells.

Yes, an orange peel is behind the design of the iconic opera house.

It took nearly 14 years and 102 million dollars to build the opera house but it had its share of problems. The people complained that too of taxpayer’s money was used to build a building thatdoes not even look good. The government eventually removed Utzon from the project and he went back to Denmark in 1966. The opera house was opened on October 20, 1973, by Queen Elizabeth herself.
A Bold Design That Was Rejected
The talks of having a world-class cultural centre to make Sydney a metropolitan came in the 1940s. The government organized an international competition to design the opera house and 200 entries came from all over the world.

Utzon was one of them. However, the majority of the judges rejected his design calling it bold and unusual except for one judge. He convinced the others and finally the project went to Utzon.

Utzon and his team worked on parabolic, ellipsoid and spherical geometry to derive the final form of the shells that resemble the sails of a ship. The problem arose while implementing the roof. It took several years, attempts and enormous money to figure out how to get the white shells to float at heights of up to 60 meters.

He supposedly had a eureka moment while eating an orange. He used the triangular peels to come up with the final design.
Like an orange, a geometrical sphere can be carved into several interlocking curved triangles. Ten curved triangular segments form the Opera House’s iconic roof. This Spherical Solution became the binding discovery that allowed for the distinctive characteristics of the Sydney Opera House to be realised finally.

The exterior of the performance halls has three shades – off-white, cream, and beige. Interestingly, the tiles imported from Sweden are triple-glazed, which means it is a self-cleaning structure. The dirt from its surfaces goes down in the drains every time it rains. The interior features pink granite, wood and plywood from New South Wales.
From the collection of: Sydney Opera House

Situated on the Sydney Harbour, the opera house has approximately 100 rooms, including a concert hall, five theatres, an opera stage, several restaurants, bars and rehearsal studios.

The structure was put together like LEGO, the famous toy product which incidentally is from Denmark as well.
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