Sydney Opera House Surprise: Two-toned Sails

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Many of the world’s most iconic landmarks have been featured so often in movies, magazines and postcards that it’s easy to think you know exactly what they look like. Case in point, the Sydney Opera House. We were absolutely convinced that the distinctive roof with multiple “sails” was made of snow white smooth concrete. Not so.

Both of us were taken aback when we caught sight of it for the first time. This was due to the thrill of seeing it in person, but also because we noticed that the sails weren’t white. They appeared to be creamy. That is until we stood inches away from a sail. Only then did we realize that the roof wasn’t one color but two and rather than being smooth it was textured.

While it’s true that the sails are made of pre-cast concrete, they’re covered with over one million beige and white glazed ceramic tiles set in a chevron pattern. We admit that the design and resulting optical illusion surprised us. Yet in a way, it made us appreciate this unique structure even more.

If you enjoyed this story in our series, you may also enjoy another one about the Sydney Opera House design or one of our books about Sydney.