45th anniversary an opportunity to reflect on the power of great architectural icons

As far as Australian architectural icons go, there is no building more symbolic of our nation than the Sydney Opera House, a work of art that captures the imagination of people the world over.

On its 45th anniversary, the Australian Institute of Architects celebrates this magnificent feat of architecture, the tremendous role it has played in shaping our country, and the special place it holds in our hearts.

The Institute’s National President Clare Cousins described the Opera House as not only an astounding work of architecture, but a source of national pride and global acclaim.

‘This building, with its perfect form and geometry, heralded Australia’s evolution from fledgeling nation to confident world player,’ she said.

‘Its impact is visceral, conveying confidence, hope and strength. It is not just a symbol of Australia’s youth, but also of our maturity.

‘When Jørn Utzon conceived the Sydney Opera House, his vision went beyond function. What he created was a work of art – in his own words, a ‘sculpture’.’

Cousins said the building’s 45th anniversary was the perfect opportunity to reflect on its greater purpose, highlight its significance as a public asset, and have a discussion about its future.

‘It is deeply disappointing that governments, at both the state and Commonwealth level, recently failed to protect and uphold the cultural values of this international icon, allowing it to be exploited with commercial advertising,’ Ms Cousins said.

‘It is the Institute’s position that using buildings like the Opera House for purposes so contrary to the public interest is unacceptable, disrespectful and does untold damage to brand Australia on the international stage.’

NSW Chapter President Andrew Nimmo said the use of the Sydney Opera House, a world heritage listed building, in a way expressly prohibited by the Conservation Management Plan put in place to protect it and endorsed by the Government’s own Heritage Council, risks being the start of an extraordinarily slippery slope and begs the question, what next?

‘These unfortunate events have served as a clarion call to the community and more specifically to the architectural profession,’ Mr Nimmo said.

‘The Institute has responded by redoubling our efforts to prevent such a lapse in due process and proper judgement ever being repeated.

‘We are committed to ensuring the cultural value and integrity of the Sydney Opera House is protected, ensuring this public building is never again exploited in this way.

‘As architects, we need to be vocal in protecting our iconic buildings and precincts.

‘This is a cause the Institute is passionate about and we will be working hard to ensure the Opera House is used as a public space that celebrates our country and culture, not for private-sector commercial interests.’