What Is the Sydney Opera House Made Of?

The Sydney Opera House is primarily made from concrete, granite, glass and ceramic materials. Its trademark white shells are made from precast concrete reinforced with steel and are covered by over 1 million ceramic tiles. Other walls are made from laminated glass supported by steel mullions or by granite-clad concrete.

The original design of the Sydney Opera was modified due to structural concerns. To create the unique shape, architect Jørn Utzon ultimately created a system of concrete ribs and concrete shells that contain pre-stressed steel cables and bars. Each piece was carefully cast on the ground and later moved into place.

Utzon worked for twelve months with the Höganäs ceramic factory to develop the tiles for the Sydney Opera House’s shells. Inspired by Chinese ceramic techniques, Höganäs created tiles that had a glossy sheen and reflected light. Each tile was cast into a preformed concrete mold on the ground and later attached to the concrete-ribbed shell that was already erected.

The concrete platform of the building is covered with red granite. Designed to contrast with the visually light shell structure, the granite was needle hammered to reduce any natural shine.

The glass walls are made from smaller segments of glass joined together by steel. Utzon used the feather pattern of a bird’s wing as inspiration for the building’s organic shape.