Sydney Opera House Symposium Opening

(11am, Friday 25 October 2013, Sydney Opera House)

Good morning, everyone, and to their Royal Highnesses, a very warm welcome back to Sydney. Today, out of that amazing diversity of nations, we especially honour the Danes, and recognise Denmark's singular contribution to Sydney.

How extraordinary it is now to think of Jorn Utzon at home in Helsingor in 1957, conjuring this dream of a building from nothing more than some photographs, a site plan, a few maritime charts and a short film about Sydney!


From those bare elements - and his own genius, of course! - Utzon reached a unique understanding of this site. He came to understand its topography and its relationship to the harbour, to the city and the Bridge and to Fort Denison. And from that understanding, he produced a building so absolutely "right" that it now appears inevitable. What else could you imagine here?

There is no doubt, as the 2003 Pritzker jury said, that the Sydney Opera House is Utzon's masterpiece and for many - perhaps most - the architectural wonder of the 20th century.

Indeed, in 2007, the World Heritage Listing acclaimed it "one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century, but in the history of humankind".

It put Sydney on the map in a way that nothing else could have done. And Sydney people have embraced it with an abiding pride and love.

It is at once a temple of art, a locus of major spectacles and a most profoundly humane and democratic space which gives everyone a sense of belonging. It's a joy to watch how people explore the place, touch its fabric and interact with its spaces.

Quite simply, it transformed our city and showed us how outstanding design could enrich our lives and send waves of change through a whole city.

Now we are looking to another gifted Dane, Jan Gehl, who has given us a new vision for George Street that I believe will have the same transformative effect. Now that the State Government has agreed to light rail, the City has committed the funds which will allow us to create an elegant civic spine from Central Railway to the Quay - a place that - like the Sydney Opera House - will be above all a place for people.

The gold standard was set by this building. George Street will live up to it.