Jørn Utzon

Danish Modern architect was born in Copenhagen, 1918. He studied at the Academy of Arts, Copenhagen, under Kay Fisker and Steen Eiler Rasmussen (1937-42), and spent the war years 1942-5 with Gunnar Asplund. In 1946 he visited Alvar Aalto in Helsinki. He traveled in Europe (1947-8) and the USA and Mexico (1949), then established his practice in Copenhagen (1950) working with other architects on competitions. In 1956 his design for the Sydney Opera House won first prize. Utzon worked from Hellebaek until 1962 when he moved to Sydney, Australia; in 1966 he returned to Denmark following his resignation from the project, which was completed by others. In 1972 Utzon moved permanently to Mallorca in Spain. He is at his best when designing structures beside the water, as with the Sydney Opera House (1956-73) and his own magnificent house, “Can Lis”, on Mallorca (1971). The Kuwait National Assembly Complex (1971-9, completed 1983), his most important work after the Opera House, uses the forms of the bedouin black tent for its monumental concrete hanging roofs. The Bagsvaerd Church hides its voluptuous shell vaults behind austere concrete and white-tiled stepped facades crowned by triangular skylights. The humanism and sensitivity of Utzon’s domestic architecture are best expressed in the anonymous, self-effacing but subtle group housing of the late 1950s and his own house on Mallorca. He gave Modern architecture a new poetic dimension that marked an influential departure from the functionalism of the 1950s while it built on the broad Scandinavian foundation of Asplund, Jacobsen and Aalto, by adding the quality of “cultivated intimacy”.

Major buildings /works:
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia, 1956-73.
Kingohusene Housing Estate, near Elsinore, Denmark, 1957-60.
Architect’s house, Santanyi, Mallorca, Spain, 1971.
Kuwait National Assembly Complex, 1971-83.
Bagsvaerd Church, Copenhagen, 1976.

Bibliography:
Jørn Utzon, “Additive Architecture“, Arkitektur 1, 1970. “Jørn Utzon and the Third Generation” in S. Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture, 5th ed., 1966.
P. Drew, Third Generation, Stuttgart, 1972.
“Can Lis” and “Jørn Utzon on Architecture”, Living Architecture, No. 8, 1989.

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