Jørn Utzon



A year before his death, Jørn Utzon had changed his Majorcan refuge of Can Feliz for this native Denmark. He had already turned 90 and had been detached from professional practice for decades, though he still collaborated with his sons Kim and Jan, also architects. Utzon will always be remembered as the author of one of the iconic buildings of the 20th century, the Sydney Opera House, a project he won in a competition in 1957, when he was 38 years old. An international jury, which included Eero Saarinen, chose the project of the captivating vaults among the 230 proposals tendered. Being the son of a naval engineer probably influenced his scheme of weightless ceramic-clad hoisted sails over the harbor, which would end up transforming the image of Sydney, and strengthening it regarding Melbourne, its eternal rival. Paradoxically, Utzon never saw his masterpiece completed:?in 1966, after a series of political disputes related to budget overruns and delays, he finally gave up the project direction. Utzon never returned to Australia, not even with the many prizes and recognitions bestowed upon him later: the Gold Medal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1973 or the keys of the city in 1998, which the lord mayor himself took to Denmark. When the RIBA presented him with its medal, he declared:?“If you like an architect’s work, you give him something to build, not a medal.” Art lasts, life is brief. Fortunately his long life allowed him to enjoy a much deserved international recognition, when in 2003, thirty years after the Opera’s completion, he received the Pritzker Prize. Utzon left an intense legacy, full of sculptural expression: the Helsingør and Fredensborg housing (1956 and 1959); the unbuilt project for the museum in?Silkeborg for the artist Asger Jørn, member of the expressionist group CoBrA (1963); the National Assembly of Kuwait, designed in 1972, finished in 1983 and rebuilt by HOK after the Gulf War;?Bagsvaerd Church (1976), the wavy interiors of which are an elegant synthesis of pantheistic and Christian elements; and his Majorca houses Can Lis (1974) and Can Feliz (1994). Heir to Erik Gunnar Asplund and Alvar Aalto (he worked at Aalto’s studio after World War II), and follower of Frank Lloyd Wright, in his essay ‘Platforms and Plateaus’ he acknowledged the influence in his work of the Oriental, Islamic and pre-Columbian civilizations.

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