Fugitive Structures Opening

(5pm, Thursday 20 March 2014, Sherman Gallery)

Thank you, Gene, and hello, everyone.

I'd also like to acknowledge Robert Beson; Tomek Archer and Toby Breakspear; Professor Anthony Burke from the UTS School of Architecture; and of course our hosts, Gene and Brian Sherman, and distinguished guests.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Gene and Brian - or more properly in this instance, the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation - for providing these opportunities to introduce new ideas, to push at the boundaries of the possible, to challenge our preconceptions and inspire us with new ways of seeing and being.

This is what the creative city is all about.

Fugitive Structures is the second in a series of four annual, invitation-only competitions aimed at emerging and mid-careers architects from the Asia-Pacific and Middle East. They are asked to design a small-scale temporary pavilion for this garden - much in the mode of the renowned Serpentine Pavilion invitation in London.

And here I should pay tribute not only to Gene Sherman and the Foundation, but also to BVN Donovan Hill - especially James Grose and Phillip Rossington, who've been valued partners with Gene on the project.

A significant aspect of the 2014 invitation was its strong technological focus, with the use of high-tech methods, computer design, robotic shaping and high-speed installation - exploring new ways of designing and building that may well become the new norms for this century.

Their Trifolium pavilion features a Corian exterior, with 250 laser-cut stainless-steel interior panels, all prefabricated and put together on-site within the one-week time frame. No small achievement!

It has the flexibility to serve as a meeting place, an auditorium or a stage for events put on by the Foundation.

Equally flexible are the series of movable forms designed by Tomahawk/Archer Breakspear which they've described as "an incomplete artwork…a platform on which things can happen" - and perhaps an invitation to the imagination.

I am particularly taken by the notion that this year's invitation was directed to mid-generation architects who are exploring the potential of digital pre-fab.

It is a real challenge for so many of these people to have their work seen and championed. In an increasingly crowded and noisy world, the "usual suspects" are guaranteed exposure but the opportunities for people at mid-career are more limited - and more limited still for those at the start of their career.

Yet without those new talents coming through, the creative gene pool is sadly diminished.

And while global cities like Sydney readily attract gifted and creative people, it's a blunt fact that they are also expensive places to live and work. I believe it is a crucial part of our job to do what we can to make it possible for them to flourish here. To make Sydney a place of starters, as well as stars!

We've had some success in providing under-used Council properties on Oxford and William Streets as affordable spaces for creative start-ups.

Our most recent venture consists of six one-bedroom apartments at 113-115 William Street that hve been converted for arts living and working space.

Since Council approved the concept last year, we appointed Gaffa Gallery to manage the project. Many of you may be aware of their Gaffa Gallery in Clarence Street, and the group has more than seven years' experience in running creative tenancies, including its experience in activating vacant spaces in The Rocks for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority.

In consultation with the City, Gaffa launched a call-out to artists and creative for 12 month tenancies. When submissions closed in January, we'd had more than 60 interested parties inspect the premises and 49 high-quality applications were eventually received.

These ran the gamut from visual arts to music and audio, theatre to film, jewellery, fashion and product design to curating and writing.

The six successful proposals include a curatorial project, a musical and visual arts collaboration, a digital media and photography art project and a film-maker's documentation of "creative rituals".

It seems a good mix to bring some life to William Street and to provide a group of talented Sydney people with a City base and a City audience, as part of our creative arc connecting Darlinghurst through William Street, the Eternity Playhouse and Oxford Street.

Meanwhile, we have the stimulus of these entrancing "fugitive structure" to open us to the possibilities of this century that is really still only just beginning.

I congratulate Gene and all her collaborators - most especially, of course, the artists who do so much to enrich our city and our lives. Thank you.