There’s no doubt about it, the Sydney Opera House is easily the most recognisable building in the country. Yet despite the fact that everyone knows what it looks like, this spectacular structure holds a number of secrets even most Sydneysiders aren’t aware of. If you’re looking to learn more about this architectural marvel, here are five things you probably didn’t know about the Sydney Opera House.
The initial concept for the Opera House’s unique sails supposedly struck architect Jørn Utzon while he was peeling an orange and admiring its segmented nature. It’s also believed snails, palm fronds and ancient Mayan temples served as inspiration for Utzon’s one-of-a-kind design.
Original estimates for the Opera House’s construction were way, way, way off from the actual amount of resources required for the project. When construction commenced in 1959, the venue was expected to cost roughly $7 million and take four years to build. In reality, the undertaking required a hefty budget of $102 million – nearly 15 times the original amount – and the doors didn’t open until 1973, more than a decade past the projected completion date.
Located high above the floor in the Opera House’s Concert Hall, the Grand Organ is the largest mechanical instrument of its kind ever constructed. Work on this monumental music-maker began in 1979, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that the first notes were played on its keys. In its finished form, the neo-baroque organ weighs a whopping 37 tonnes and boasts 10,244 pipes arranged into 200 different ranks. During the decades that have passed since the organ was built, its electronic components have been updated to meet modern standards, but the majority of the instrument remains original.
Ever wonder what the Opera House’s signature roof is made of? You’re not alone. There are an astounding 1,056,006 Swedish tiles slathered across 1.62 hectares of the venue’s signature sails. What’s even more impressive is that every single one of these tiles are supported by a single column, which is considered the largest free-standing pillar on the planet.
The Opera House is a large building by any standards, but to truly appreciate how immense it is, you need to see it up close. Spanning 187 metres in length and 115 metres in breadth, the structure sits on a 5.8-hectare swath of land sizable enough to accommodate eight airliners arranged wing to wing. And that’s just the outside! Inside the House’s doors you’ll find more than 1,000 individual rooms, including numerous bars, cafes, and restaurants, along with several distinct concert halls.
Ready to experience this awesome feat of architecture in person? Sign up for the Sydney Opera House Guided Walking Tour to learn even more about this singular building. Interested in pleasing your palate, too? Register for the Sydney Opera House Tour & Tasting Plate for an alfresco meal alongside the shimmering Sydney Harbour, or check out the Sydney Opera House Backstage Tour with Breakfast for exclusive access to restricted areas paired with a morning meal in the green room. Cheers!