John Christie Wright Memorial Fountain Restoration

(3pm 17 March 2012, Macquarie Place Park, off Bridge Street)

Hello, everyone, welcome. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the 200 nationalities who make up our wonderful City.

It's a pleasure to welcome Tanya Crothers and Darani Lewers and their guests here today. It's thanks to these two dedicated guardians of their parents' legacy that we have finally been able to restore this lovely work to something more like its original setting.

According to council records, Jean Hague-Smith offered in 1960 to donate a fountain to the city as a memorial to John Christie Wright, a Scottish-born artist who became art instructor at Sydney University Teachers' College and later won the Wynne Prize for sculpture.

He enlisted in the AIF in 1917 and was killed in action in France a few months later.

In response to her offer, Gerald Lewers was commissioned by the City of Sydney. A highly regarded sculptor, he had begun work on copper fountains in the mid-1950s, and had just won second prize in the City Fountains Competition.

Here he created an exquisitely balanced copper work, like a curled leaf, set in an informal surround of river stones and grasses, originally in the corner of Bridge and Loftus Streets.

The work was delicate, in both its scope and its materials - too delicate for vandals not to have a go at. Eventually, in an effort to preserve it, the fountain was relocated within the park.

Unfortunately, however, it was set in the middle of a large circular basin which destroyed the harmony of the original setting and the new basin collected leaves and other materials which eventually damaged the hydraulics.

For some years, Tanya and Darani had been trying to have the fountain restored to something more in keeping with their father's original vision.

We have worked closely with them on this project and I hope they're as delighted as we are with the results.

We couldn't restore the fountain to its exactly original setting because of the growth of surrounding trees.

But this present location facing Bridge Street is closest to the original siting, and the garden surrounds and new paving and seating create a more intimate and appropriate setting.

The copper leaf itself needed restoration and a new polished concrete basin of a more appropriate size has been made. The hydraulics have all been upgraded and the large basin area has been filled in and paved to provide a seating area, with sandstone benches incorporated in to adjacent wall.

The new plantings complement the relocated fountain and are more in keeping with what Gerald had originally intended.

I'm glad that we have been able to restore this lovely work and once again I thank Tanya and Darani who have been involved throughout the project.

I'd also like to thank our contractors Wilson Pedersen Landscapes and Water Features Australia, as well as Andrew Chippendall and Marie Stucci from the City who have all worked with such enthusiasm to restore the fountain and its setting.

Thank you, everyone.