Media Release
Visionary: Opera House chief celebrated for renewal of 20th century’s greatest building
12 September, 2022

Media contact

Matt Levinson

After a decade at the helm of the 20th century’s greatest building, Louise Herron AM has been recognised for her phenomenal work to invigorate and reposition the global icon.

“What I love most about Sydney is its spirit, and I feel that spirit is perfectly encapsulated in the Opera House,” she said. “It’s bold, inspiring, adventurous and never quite satisfied.”

Louise Herron is the seventh CEO and first woman appointed to lead the World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House.

The City Visionary Award, supported by award sponsor Mirvac Design, celebrates people who have had a significant positive impact on the evolution of Sydney’s physical environment.

Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, CEO and MD at Mirvac, congratulated Louise on her award, recognising a decade-long commitment to transformation and renewal: “It is wonderful to have observed the reinvention of the Sydney Opera House under Louise’s guidance and direction – we congratulate her and we’re delighted to be celebrating her work with this award.

“For 50 years, Mirvac Design has created timeless and sustainable places of enduring value underpinned by visionary ideas and technical rigour, so it is an honour to recognise someone who has contributed so significantly to the evolution of Sydney and it’s most famous building and precinct.”

Louise Herron has overseen a major renewal of the Opera House, with a $300 million, 10-year program of capital works largely funded by the NSW Government, including upgrades to the Concert Hall and Joan Sutherland Theatre, the new Centre for Creativity and Yallamundi Rooms function centre, upgraded entry foyers and a vehicle-free forecourt.

Louise Herron, CEO of the Sydney Opera House: “The first moment I heard the Sydney Symphony Orchestra playing in the renewed Concert Hall just a few weeks ago – I can’t really talk about it without getting emotional – it was completely mind-blowing to see and hear what a difference the acousticians, architects, engineers and designers have been able to achieve.

“The Opera House is a gift: it’s the greatest building of the 20th century and now it’s ready for the 21st. We want everyone to come pouring in and explore what’s on and, most of all, their own creativity.

“Any time I sit in a performance, whether it’s a children’s play, a contemporary music or the world’s greatest classical performers, I look at the people around me and see the awe and wonder and joy on their faces. There’s nothing I love more.

“One of the challenges was the Opera House being seen as a place of privilege. I have been determined to dispel that myth and let people know everyone is welcome. That means outside, inside, on site, online, however you want to enjoy the Opera House, it’s yours to enjoy.

“I am very honoured by this award, but I also want to acknowledge the many people around the city who do so much to make it a better place. What the Opera House does is part of all the great things happening in art galleries, museums and theatres in the city, western Sydney and more broadly. It takes all of us together to realise the city’s full potential and to really put it back on the map after the pandemic.”

Before joining the Opera House, Louise Herron practised law and was a partner with MinterEllison from 1989 to 2000. She then moved to be a corporate advisor, and at the same time was non executive chair of Belvoir Street for over a decade, then chair of the Major Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council.

Ann Sherry AO, Committee for Sydney life member, and Sydney Awards judge, said Louise Herron was an absolutely logical choice for the City Visionary Award: “Her work has changed the Opera House from a piece of architecture that everybody talked about to a place that has life, that tells the story of Sydney in a very different way, that projects Indigenous art onto the sails, that has remade the interior. It’s absolutely the best it can possibly be.

“This award recognises Louise’s vision, the use of the Opera House as not just a piece of architecture but as a core part of the way Sydney thinks about itself and connects itself to the original custodians and owners of the land as well.

“It’s been visionary because she’s engaged people in a way I’ve never seen done before. For someone who’s really the CEO of a building and a set of activities, she’s made it so much more than that. She’s a very deserving recipient.”

Designed to celebrate people whose efforts make Sydney the greatest city in the world, there are six categories: Global Sydney, Western Sydney Champion, City Visionary, Emerging Leader, and Unsung Hero.

The eminent judging panel for the inaugural awards include:

  • Ann Sherry AO – Chair Unicef Australia and Enero Australia
  • Usman Iftikhar – CEO of Catalysr, and winner of the 2021 Western Sydney Champion Award
  • Sara Mansour – Founder Bankstown Poetry Slam, Lawyer at Settlement Services International
  • Eric Knight – Executive Dean at Macquarie Business School, and Professor of Strategic Management
  • Tanya Hosch – Executive General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, AFL
  • Mike Baird AO – CEO HammondCare, and former Premier of NSW.

The Sydney Awards are supported by major partner Macquarie Business School, and award sponsors Aurecon, Coles, ISPT Super Property, KPMG and Mirvac Design.