Death of Joern Utzon

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SpeakersRees Mr Nathan; O'Farrell Mr Barry
BusinessCondolence, Ministerial Statement

Page: 12242

Ministerial Statement

Mr NATHAN REES (Toongabbie—Premier, and Minister for the Arts) [2.22 p.m.]: All Australians, and especially the people of Sydney and New South Wales, will have heard the news of Joern Utzon's death with great sorrow. It is difficult to think of another foreign national whose death has meant more to Australians. It is as if we have lost one of our own. There is sorrow that this nation and the city of Sydney have lost a good friend, a warm admirer and a hardworking servant. There is a special sorrow in the knowledge that the man who gave the world one of the great buildings of the modern era was to die without seeing his finished creation.

All who knew Joern Utzon spoke of his humility, his willing sense of humour, his professional integrity, and the warmth and loyalty of his dealings with colleagues and friends. He was a man greatly loved for his personal qualities as much as his professional achievements. Many honours were showered on Mr Utzon in his lifetime. The Royal Institute of British Architects awarded him its gold medal in 1978, and he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. In 2003, three decades after his masterpiece on our great harbour was opened—and he was never officially invited to the opening ceremony—he was awarded the Pritzker Prize, the highest accolade his profession can bestow. He was then aged 85, and too frail to attend the presentation in Madrid.

Finally, in July last year, the Sydney Opera House was included by UNESCO on its register of World Heritage sites—the most recent building, and one of the few non-natural features of the global environment, to be honoured in this way. In UNESCO's citation it declared the Sydney Opera House to be "a masterpiece of human creative genius". Such accolades were justly and generously bestowed. On behalf of the Government, and I believe all members of this place, I place on record our lasting sense of indebtedness to the man who gave Sydney one of the great buildings of the world and the acknowledged symbol of this nation, and the gateway to our great city. I ask all members to join me in expressing our sincere condolences to Mr Utzon's family.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Leader of the Opposition) [2.24 p.m.]: The Opposition joins with members opposite in this tribute. Sydney without the Sydney Opera House would be like Australia without kangaroos. Yet, along with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it is one of the most recognisable and iconic structures in the world; both are perfectly suited to the harbour that crowns this city. We owe Joern Utzon a debt of gratitude for his lasting legacy to this city, and to the tourism potential and attractions that it has provided for this nation. It was conceived with idealism, constructed amidst controversy and opened with opulence by the Queen, indicating an air of optimism about what Australia, courtesy of a Danish architect, could achieve.

Hindsight has perfect vision and so too do those who dwell on the controversy. We should remember that those involved—architects, builders and politicians—acted in what they believed was the best interest of the public. I am happy to pay tribute to Joern Utzon and all those involved in the construction of the Sydney Opera House. I send my sympathy to his family and friends. I salute those governments who had the vision and commitment needed to deliver projects such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and I look forward to their return to this State.