Sydney Opera House to darken in mourning

By Rohan Sullivan

SYDNEY, Australia – The distinctive white sails of the Sydney Opera House will darken Sunday to mourn the death of Joern Utzon, the creative mind behind the globally known landmark.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd led praise for the Danish architect, whose most distinctive creation had a troublesome birth in Australia but is now held dear as perhaps the country’s most recognized icon.

“Joern Utzon was a visionary architect whose legacy includes one of the world’s most spectacular and inspiring buildings, the Sydney Opera House,” Rudd said in a statement.

“In the great sweep of history, what we’re left with is a beautiful building, Sydney’s symbol to the world, Australia’s symbol to the world and owed in large part to this great man – a son of Denmark but I’ve got to say in terms of his spirit, a son of Australia as well,” Rudd said.

Floodlights that illuminate the shell-like structure each night would be dimmed for one hour on Sunday to mark Utzon’s death, the Sydney Opera House Trust said. Flags on the city’s other landmark, the arch-like Sydney Harbor Bridge, would be lowered to half-staff on Monday to honor Utzon, the New South Wales state government announced.

“Joern Utzon was an architectural and creative genius who gave Australia and the world a great gift,” said Kim Williams, the chairman of the trust that operates the venue. “Sydney Opera House is core to our national cultural identity and a source of great pride to all Australians. It has become the most globally recognized symbol of our country.”

Utzon died from a heart attack in his sleep early Saturday, surrounded by family members in Denmark, his son, Kim Utzon, told The Associated Press. He was 90.