Australia mourned the death of ‘visionary’ Danish architect and designer of the iconic Sydney Opera House yesterday as flags flew at half mast at Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Jørn Utzon, who is believed to have died peacefully in Copenhagen last weekend, aged 90, was hailed by Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who led tributes to the “visionary architect whose legacy includes one of the world’s most spectacular and inspiring buildings.”

Utzon, who spent more than ten years designing the Sydney Opera House, never returned to Australia to see his project completed following disputes with the New South Wales state government.

In May 2003, Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Prize by which time he began working again with Sydney Opera House.

Utzon’s first interior space within Sydney Opera House, named the Utzon Room followed in September 2004 and the first exterior change to Sydney Opera House, the Colonnade, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in March 2006.

The chairman of Sydney Opera House Trust, Kim Williams paid tribute to the Danish architect.

“Jørn Utzon was an architectural and creative genius who gave Australia and the world a great gift. 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 recognised symbol of our country,” said Williams.

A book of remembrance has now been placed at the harbour side for the public to sign. A memorial service early next year is to follow, the Sydney Opera House Trust said in a statement.

By Ozge Ibrahim.