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Jorn Utzon

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Jorn Utzon is the architect for the Sydney Opera House, one of the most recognizable and celebrated designs in the world.


[edit] History

[edit] Birth and Early Life

Utzon was the son of a shipyard director in Denmark. Born in Copenhagen on April 10, 1918, Utzon seriously considered becoming a naval officer after being raised in a family of sailors and naval architects. After he turned 18, however, he began helping his father in the shipyard. His father, a talented architect, led the way by example and Utzon became interested in ship designs.

During a summer holiday with his grandparents, Utzon was introduced to two artists, Paul Schroder and Carl Kyberg. This was another taste of art and design for Utzon. He developed an interest in sculpting and was torn between becoming an artist and becoming an architect. He decided architecture might be better suited for him.[1]

Utzon attended the Academy of Fine Arts in 1942 and moved to Sweden during World War II to avoid possible troubles. His eye was cast upon many influences during that time. He developed a great admiration for Gunnar Asplund and Frank Lloyd Wright. Even as a student, Utzon had developed a reputation for having a unique and talented architectural vision.

He traveled the world within the next several years, eagerly taking in a world full of experience that would provide the basis for his career. Utzon said on a trip to Mexico: “As an architectonic element, the platform is fascinating. I lost my heart to it on a trip to Mexico in 1949, where I found a rich variety of both size and idea, and where many platforms stand alone, surrounded by nothing but untouched nature.”

[edit] Sydney Opera House

Utzon was 38 years old when the Sydney Opera House opportunity presented itself to him. Living in Denmark with his wife and three children, Kim, Jan, and Lin, Utzon had not yet developed a worldwide reputation as an architect. He, along with 230 others, applied for the opera house competition. Utzon, who applied anonymously, won with his concept, which the media described as: “three shell-like concrete vaults covered with white tiles.”[2]

One of the judges, Eero Saarinen, described his design as genius. The concept of white elliptical shells was inspired by the “peeling of an orange.” The 14 shells of the house were to provide for a complete sphere.[3]

Utzon developed elaborate plans for the interior of the opera house but they were quashed when the new government of New South Wales refused to pay for the construction. He stepped down as chief architect and left Australia in 1966. He never returned.

The Sydney Opera House opened in 1973. As per Utzon’s design, it consisted of a number of theatres and halls and hosts an average of 3,000 events per year.

Recently, it has been announced that the Sydney Opera House will undergo refurbishments, some of which Utzon’s son Jan will be involved in. At 84, Utzon hopes the refurbishment plans for the opera house calls for color rather than a black hole.

[edit] Other Works

Far from a successful career, Utzon earned extra money and contacts by devising designs for factories in Morocco in 1947. He developed an understanding of the cultural and social components of Islamic architecture and accepted a project in Teheran in 1958. The result was the famous Iran National Bank.

Utzon also designed a church in Bagsvaerd in Copenhagen between 1968 and '76. Previously the church was the result of a 16th century creation. The king at the time permitted the church to be demolished to provide bricks for a university. Utzon provided the town with a long-awaited church after two pastors spent their life savings towards Utzon’s designs for a new church. His inspiration for the design came from Hawaii where he spent time teaching. One day he became captivated in a stream of clouds and he though this vision could be the basis for a ceiling inside a church.

In 1985, Utzon’s practice included his two sons, Jan and Kim. Ole Paustian, one of Denmark’s most successful furniture companies, requested the firm to design a new store for him, which they did.

One of Utzon’s latest designs was the Can Feliz in Mallorca, Spain. Described as paradise, Utzon was inspired by the platform concept for this creation.

Among his other accomplishments are the Kingo Houses in Elsinore, which followed courtyard designs between 1956 and 1960; the Melli Bank in Iran from 1959 to 1960; the National Assembly of Kuwait from 1972 to 1984; and the Planetstaden housing project in Sweden.[4]

[edit] Present Day

Jorn Utzon now enjoys retirement with his wife Lis, living in a house he designed in Majorca. Both of his sons, Jan and Kim, continue in their fathers name at the family firm. His daughter, Lin, an artist, also works closely with the firm.

He also received an honorary doctorate for the success of the Opera House by the University of Sydney. His son accepted the award, as Utzon was too ill to attend.

[edit] References

  1. Craven, Jackie. Who is Jorn Utzon?, 2008-09-29.
  2. Jorn Utzon: Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate 2003. The Pritzker Architecture Prize, 2008-09-29.
  3. Biography of Jorn Utzon. Astrotheme, 2008-09-29.
  4. Jorn Utzon Biography. BiographyBase, 2008-09-29.