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A Tribute to Jørn Utzon
By Martin Keiding

April 14, 2008 /
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In celebration of Jørn Utzon's 90th birthday the Danish Architectural Press have published a tribute to the man whose building became a symbol for a city.

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It is a great honor and wonderful feeling to be appreciated by one's colleagues. To have been allowed to create something that enriches the lives of my fellow human beings is a wonderful gift./Jørn Utzon

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Photo: © Ole Haupt/Frederiksborg Museet

The Danish Architectural Press, in collaboration with Jan Utzon and the Aalborg University, have spend a number of years building up the "Utzon Archive."

Among the many extraordinary drawings that were scanned are several never before published sketches for the Sydney Opera competition proposal. The sketches show studies of the project's location, design, spatial concept and, especially, the roof. Well-known descriptions of how the concept of the roof arose are confirmed and denied in these drawings. Confirmed because the themes that characterize Utzon's work are present in the sketches, such as the attention to other similar building works and natural growth, denied because the drawings document that the roofs were not the product of a momentary impulse, but rather the result of a long work process.


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Photo © Utzon Archive



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Photo © Utzon Archive



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Photo © Utzon Archive

"The drawings in the book illustrate the fascinating and often lengthly process from the first idea to the completed building. In this sense, they not only give an exceptional insight into Utzon's architctural visions, but also his work methods. Even though the tools and forms of presentation have dramatically changed in recent years, these drawings by Denmark's most famous architect seem to contain latent opportunities for contemporary work processes and design. This is du to the fact that they, more than anything else, were used as tools to conceive and develop projects conceptually."
From the book essay "Lines of Thought" by Michael Asgaard Anderson

When the publishers asked a number of Utzon's colleagues if they would send a sketch and a birthday greeting, they poured in from all over the world.

The effect of Jørn Utzon's work, the ideas and the buildings' universal impact and importance today, are interpreted by architects including, Tadao Ando, Glenn Murcutt, Rafael Moneo, Steven Holl, Juhani Pallasmaa, and Lene Tranberg.

..."You have shown how to turn motion into form, matter into luminance, and gravity into flight. Your poetic alchemy enriches the imagination of all of us. Thank you for your generosity."
-Excerpt from Juhani Pallasmaa greeting 

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"Through mind's eye and movement of hand, you have transposed nature's inner workings, creating a shared language that has allowed us to dream and believe in a good life, in great and in small."
Excerpt from Lene Tranberg greeting.

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"The Opera House today is for many not only the dramatic silhouette that accents the beauty of the Sydney harbour but it is also the testimony of the optimistic notion in Australian social life that nature and culture need not be mutually exclusive."
Excerpt from Rafael Moneo greeting.

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The Sydney Opera House is the summit of the 20th Century Modernism architecture.

The ideal combination of architect's rich intellectual creativity and superb technological imagination has been sublimed into a stunning figure. It shows us that architecture is created by human rationality.
Excerpt from Tadao Ando greeting.

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"Twelve years ago I walked around the Opera House in Sydney with tears of joy...
Here is public architecture of unmatched transformative urban presence.
Excerpt from Steven Holl greeting.

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Glenn Murcutt included a Zen Buddhist statement in his greeting:
"The real master in the art of living makes little distinction between his art and his leisure, he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does leavin others to decide whether he is working or playing, To him he is always both."

"I like to be on the edge of the possible," is something Jørn Utzon has said. His work shows the world that he has been there and beyond - he proves that the marvelous and seemingly impossible in architecture can be achieved. He has always been ahead of his time. He rightly joins the handful of Modernists who have shaped the past century with buildings of timeless and enduring quality."
Jørn Utzon The Pritzker Prize 2003

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Last updated: December 19, 2013

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