Honarary Fellowship, Design Institute of Australia

(5.30pm, Friday 16 May 2014, Hilton Sydney)

Thank you, Kirsten [Stanisich, NSW President]. Good evening, everyone.

I would like to thank the NSW Council and the Directors of the Design Institute of Australia for this recognition. I am honoured and proud to accept this Honorary Fellowship and I want to pay tribute to all those designers, architects, artists and artisans who have worked with us to make our City a healthier, more sustainable, more liveable and importantly a more beautiful place.

Sydney more than most cities has been blessed with extraordinary natural advantages - the glorious harbour, dramatic topography, abundant views and vistas. But its man-made attributes have not always matched its natural ones.

My ambition has been to raise the quality of the public realm to respect the best of our past while creating a legacy for the future. The design professions have been our essential partners in this work.

When I became Lord Mayor in 2004, I wanted to ensure Sydney's future sustainability, and to harness everything at our command to make that happen.

Here, once again, the design professions are helping us to achieve our goal of a city that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. They are showing that sustainability and good design together can make vibrant, engaging places that enrich the city's economic, social and cultural life, while contributing to its long-term future.

I am proud of the work the City has done, I want to also pay tribute also to those far-sighted developers who have grasped those same principles.

You only have to look at the work commissioned by Dexus from Ingenhoven Architects with local firm Architectus that has created the internationally acclaimed Number 1 Bligh Street; or the stunning red steel girders of 8 Chifley, designed by Lord Richard Rogers with its expansive public space; or local architect Richard Francis-Jones whose work at Liberty Place has created an elegant new skyscraper with a wonderful public space flanked by exquisite new low-rise and restored heritage buildings.

And then there is the Fraser's Property redevelopment of the former brewery site on Broadway into a remarkable new residential precinct and gateway to the City, with its generous parkland, public art and sensitive links to neighbouring low-rise Chippendale.

These are all developments that add not merely prestige to the City but which provide opportunities for people to use and experience the City in new ways, that create new pathways and open spaces to explore and find refuge.

These developments have been enabled, in part, by our City staff, led by Graham Jahn, and with the advice of our Architectural Advisory Panel.

Our own work, too, benefits from their wisdom, and I hope you'll forgive me for bringing my slides along tonight, but I am proud of what we've done, and our interstate guests might like to see some of it.

There is, for instance, the marvellous Paddington Reservoir Gardens, once an early water reservoir which had become a derelict site on Oxford Street, is now another internationally awarded park and "breathing space" on a busy shopping strip.

Our architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer exposed the underground structures of the former water reservoir, creating a multi-layered park which is an absolute delight - what I describe "as a combination of the hanging gardens of Babylon and the Baths of Caracalla".

Our commitment to creating fine public spaces has resulted in the rejuvenation of Redfern Park from a besser block and barbed-wire-surrounded sporting field into the welcoming space it is today, while at Pyrmont, we bought the former Water Police site to create a stunning new headland park that links into waterfront lands on either side, providing recreational space for a greatly densified suburb.

At the 44-hectare Sydney Park we created an all-abilities playground where all young children, including those with special needs, can play safely, stretch themselves and discover just how much they can do. The emphasis here is on sensory experiences, and on providing a safe level of challenges.

Our Surry Hills Library by Richard Francis-Jones is widely regarded as a small masterpiece and an international design competition for a new library and plaza at Green Square was won by a young Sydney team of Stewart Hollenstein. Glenn Murcutt, one of the competition jurors, hailed it as an outstanding work which will be a focal point for the community now evolving in this former light industrial wasteland.

Our Waterloo Youth Centre by Collins and Turner took out last year's Sulman Award, while the Murcutt-Neeson-Barnsley design for Prince Alfred Park Pool is a wonderful addition to our city.

We're also putting a lot of work into the city's existing urban fabric, reviving its forgotten laneways with art and lighting, adding texture and layers to the experience of the city.

And having finally convinced the State Government that Sydney needs a light-rail system, we have committed $220 million to new street furniture, wider footpaths, new plantings and public art to turn George Street into the great civic spine that it should be.

All this work is realised through the skills of the design professionals and we are enormously indebted to all those who have worked with us to bring real transformations to Sydney.

So in thanking you for this honour, I once again thank all of our collaborators who are helping us realise our vision for our city.