Pritzker Prize winning architect Jørn Utzon (9 April 1918 – 29 November 2008) was the relatively unknown Dane who, on the 29th January 1957, was announced as the winner of the "International competition for a national opera house at Bennelong Point, Sydney’." When speaking about this iconic building, Louis Kahn stated that "The sun did not know how beautiful its light was, until it was reflected off this building." Unfortunately, Utzon never saw the Sydney Opera House, his most popular work, completed.
The Pritzker Prize is the most important award in the field of architecture, awarded to a living architect whose built work "has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity through the art of architecture." The Prize rewards individuals, not entire offices, as took place in 2000 (when the jury selected Rem Koolhaas instead of his firm OMA) or in 2016 (with Alejandro Aravena selected instead of Elemental); however, the prize can also be awarded to multiple individuals working together, as took place in 2001 (Herzog & de Meuron), 2010 (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA), and 2017 (Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta of RCR Arquitectes).
The award is an initiative funded by Jay Pritzker through the Hyatt Foundation, an organization associated with the hotel company of the same name that Jay founded with his brother Donald in 1957. The award was first given in 1979, when the American architect Philip Johnson, was awarded for his iconic works such as the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut.
The Pritzker Prize has been awarded for almost forty straight years without interruption, and there are now 18 countries with at least one winning architect. To date, half of the winners are European; while the Americas, Asia, and Oceania share the other twenty editions. So far, no African architect has been awarded, making it the only continent without a winner.
An iconic piece of architecture recognized around the world, the Sydney Opera House was designed by Jørn Utzon, following a 1956 competition that attracted 222 competition entries. Since its opening in 1973, the building has redefined the ambitions of Australia and only last September celebrated its latest milestone: turning completely carbon neutral.
The history behind the Opera House and its creation is as rich as the architecture itself. In 1956 the New South Wales Government called an open competition for the design of two performance halls, for opera and for symphony concerts, hoping to establish Sydney as a major city. Danish architect Jørn Utzon won the competition with an entry that consisted of a few simple sketches that intrigued the jury.
This article was originally published on November 20,2014. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.
No single building typology reveals as much about a nation’s political culture as the seat of its government. Parliamentary or palatial structures can tell stories of bureaucratic sprawl, autocratic excess, democratic openness, and anything in between. Kuwait’s National Assembly Building, the home of its popularly elected legislature, is no exception. Much like the nominally-democratic, effectively-oligarchic government it hosts, the building projects conflicting messages of accessibility and regionalist modernity, referencing traditions that don’t necessarily exist in the country and sometimes ending up in direct contradiction with itself. As an emblem of political culture, the building is thus perhaps too accurate in its reading of the Kuwaiti story, yielding a revealing insight into the complex political fabric of the country through its own eclectic bricolage of ideas.
Utzon UNBUILT Competition to Shed New Light on the Danish Master's Works - and Invites the Public to Take Part
Jorn Utzon’s name is, for most people, tied inextricably to his most famous work: the Sydney Opera House. Completed in 1973, the project was named a World Heritage Site in 2007, making Utzon only the second architect (after Oscar Niemeyer) to receive such an honor in his lifetime. The project is arguably the most recognizable and significant works of architecture of the 20th century and remains a work ahead of its time. But the uncompromising detail and futuristic design of Utzon’s work left many of his projects unrealized or unknown by the time of his death in 2008.
Re-imagining Utzon’s unbuilt gems
The Sydney Opera House is celebrating a significant environmental milestone, having become carbon neutral five years ahead of schedule. For reducing its carbon dioxide emissions through efficiencies in waste and energy management, the Opera House was awarded certification from the Australian Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS).
The sails of the Sydney Opera House were illuminated green on the night of Monday 24th September to celebrate the carbon neutral certification.
Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of the leading Danish architect, Jørn Utzon. Notably responsible for what could be argued to be the most prominent building in the world, the Sydney Opera House, Utzon accomplished what many architects can only dream of: a global icon. To celebrate this special occasion, Louisiana Channel has collaborated with the Utzon Center in Aalborg, Denmark to put together a video series to hear prominent architects and designers talk, including Bjarke Ingels and Renzo Piano, about their experiences with Utzon and his work—from his unrivalled visual awareness of the world, to his uncompromising attitude that led him to create such strong architectural statements.
Unlike many architects around at the time of Jørn Utzon, who as modernists rejected tradition in favour of new technologies and orthogonal plans, Utzon combined these usually contradictory qualities in an exceptional manner. As the architects recount, he was a globalist with a Nordic base, that has inspired the next generation to travel the world and challenge their concepts. Many of them compare his work to Alvar Aalto’s, as both shared an organic approach to architecture, looking at growth patterns in nature for inspiration. Utzon even coined this approach "Additive Architecture," whereby both natural and cultural forms are united to form buildings that are designed more freely.
Construction is an exercise in frugality and compromise. To see their work realized, architects have to juggle the demands of developers, contractors, clients, engineers—sometimes even governments. The resulting concessions often leave designers with a bruised ego and a dissatisfying architectural result. While these architects always do their best to rectify any problems, some disputes get so heated that the architect feels they have no choice but to walk away from their own work. Here are 6 of the most notable examples:
There’s no doubt that one of the best things about architecture is its universality. Wherever you come from, whatever you do, however you speak, architecture has somehow touched your life. However, when one unexpectedly has to pronounce a foreign architect’s name... things can get a little tricky. This is especially the case when mispronunciation could end up making you look less knowledgeable than you really are. (If you're really unlucky, it could end up making you look stupid in front of your children and the whole world.)
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 22 architects with names that are a little difficult to pronounce, and paired them with a recording in which their names are said impeccably. Listen and repeat as many times as it takes to get it right, and you’ll be prepared for any intellectual architectural conversation that comes your way.
Jørn Utzon’s archive is buried in boxes and basements across Sydney. This rich body of knowledge—of original drawings, prototypes, photographs and models—is a valuable public resource, alive with thoughts and experiments. Yet, it remains inaccessible and intangible to most.
For Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki and David J. Lewis, the section “is often understood as a reductive drawing type, produced at the end of the design process to depict structural and material conditions in service of the construction contract.” A definition that will be familiar to most of those who have studied or worked in architecture at some point. We often think primarily of the plan, for it allows us to embrace the programmatic expectations of a project and provide a summary of the various functions required. In the modern age, digital modelling software programs offer ever more possibilities when it comes to creating complex three dimensional objects, making the section even more of an afterthought.
With their Manual of Section, the three founding partners of LTL architects engage with section as an essential tool of architectural design, and let’s admit it, this reading might change your mind on the topic. For the co-authors, “thinking and designing through section requires the building of a discourse about section, recognizing it as a site of intervention.” Perhaps, indeed, we need to understand the capabilities of section drawings both to use them more efficiently and to enjoy doing so.
The Sydney Opera House has revealed designs for a $202 million renovation project, the largest upgrade program to the Jørn Utzon-designed building since it opened in 1973. Announced by New South Wales Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts, Troy Grant, the project’s main goal is to “improve access and ensure it meets the needs and expectations of audiences, artists and the 8.2 million people who visit each year.”
Utzon Center, Aalborg, recently opened their newest exhibition - FATAMORGANA - about Jørn Utzon’s mythical unbuilt project for Silkeborg Museum intended to house the art and private collection of the Danish expressionist painter; Asger Jorn. The exhibition unfolds the museum, which never was realised. A museum where art meets architecture and Utzon and Jorn worked on the edge of the possible!
Upcoming Feature Film to Chronicle the Trials and Tribulations of Jørn Utzon and the Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic buildings in the world. A momentous achievement in design and engineering, the building quickly cemented itself as a defining feature of the Australian cultural landscape. But the realization of the building was not a straightforward one, and almost immediately after the project was awarded it became fraught with controversy and uncertainty. At the center of this controversy was the architect, Jørn Utzon, who eventually resigned after mounting conflict with the state government. Now, this period of Utzon's life will be chronicled in a new feature length film, Utzon, The Man Behind the Opera House, reports The Guardian.
Vivid Sydney, the Australian city's annual festival of lights, began today with colorful installations that reinvent icons like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Jørn Utzon’s renowned Opera House. The event is host to over 90 light installations devised by more than 150 artists from 23 countries, appearing in eight precincts across the city.
On June 9, 2015, philanthropists finally acquired a tapestry by Le Corbusier originally intended to be hung in the Sydney Opera House. After Jørn Utzon won the commission for the building in 1958, he wrote to Le Corbusier, whom he admired, requesting a piece of “decoration, carpet and painting” for the Sydney Opera House, including drawings of his design. The two met in Paris in 1959 and the work was completed and delivered in 1960, where it was hung in Utzon’s own house. After Utzon left Australia in 1966, the tapestry was never installed in the Opera House, remaining in the Utzon house until now. Read the whole story on Architecture AU here.
Sydney Opera House recently created a video exploring how Jørn Utzon was inspired by the form and function of nature. While Jørn Utzon may not have seen himself as a pioneer of sustainable techniques, sustainability was inherent in his design philosophy. Watch the video above to learn more.