AD Classics: Bagsværd Church / Jørn Utzon

Photo by seier + seier -

The Church by Jørn Utzon was completed in 1976. Though not his most famous work, the church is an example of the architect’s inventive work at a different scale. Utzon designed the church with an unassuming exterior that merely hints at the stirring forms he created inside.

Photo by Peter Guthrie -

The Bagsværd Church was Utzon’s first work after returning to from Austrailia and the Sydney Opera House, which he designed. It is located on the northern outskirts of Copenhagen in a suburban setting. The church stands almost unassuming as a simple, modern structure amidst birch trees, with its back to a local street.

Photo by seier + seier -

It is with knowledge of the interior that the exterior becomes more intriguing. The orthogonal form is clad in white precast concrete panels and glazed white tiles attached to a frame. Utzon positioned the reflective glazed tiles to relate to the celebrated sinuous concrete curves occurring in the interior sanctuary.

© Jørn Utzon

Early sketches suggest rolling clouds were the inspiration for the interior of the Bagsværd Church. Utzon designed soft curves to control the light, and act as a visual masterpiece in this small church. White concrete was molded in place to create the interior sanctuary’s ceiling, where the curves rise from their lowest point above the congregation, to their highest point above the altar.

Photo by seier + seier -

The exterior of the Bagsværd Church is much more austere than the views from within, where white concrete is complimented by pale beach wood. The curving white concrete overhead is matched with white concrete walls, and floor tiles, as well as a delicate white screen of triangles behind the altar. The freestanding pews are constructed out of wood, and another screen isolates the sanctuary from the rest of the building through pale vertical wood pieces.

Photo by seier + seier -

Utzon carefully considered daylight in the Bagsværd Church. It is brought in at the highest point of the curving ceiling, and softened along the curves. It is also filtered in through glass ceilings above corridors and hallways of the Bagsværd Church. Elsewhere, the church has an aluminum roof.

Photo by seier + seier -

The Bagsværd community had not had a church since the 16th century prior to Utzon’s timeless design, and his resulting building has certainly left its mark. The plain exterior contrasts an incredible sanctuary space that encourages a calm feeling for parishioners. The building holds extreme merit as a whole, but it is the interior section by Utzon that has been world renowned since its completion.

Architect: Jørn Utzon
Location: Bagsværd, Denmark
Project Year: 1968-1976
References: Push Pull BarRevisiting Utzon’s Bagsværd Church, arcspace
Photographs: Flickr, seier + seier, Le Kizz, dvmoc, alanbenzie, Peter Guthrie

Cite: Balters, Sofia. "AD Classics: Bagsværd Church / Jørn Utzon" 12 Sep 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • dr

    great master of architecture, not only for the sydney opera house but for all his work

  • joe

    brilliant building, presages in ink and pencil the CG stuff that is going on now. Like Sydney.

    Ken Franzten at Columbia remarks this is this is noteworthy as to its ability to reflect region’s needs with powerful inventive capacity–and the
    demonstration of really building an idea.

    Something CG aspires to, most often falls short on!

  • dvd

    Been there. It gets in your bones. seriously.

  • seier+seier

    common online courtesy says that you include a direct link back to the source of the photos, you use. and in the case of flickr photos, that the photo itself links straight back to the source.