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Jeffrey van der Wees

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Spotlight: Jørn Utzon

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.

Bagsværd Church. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/seier/5958688179/'>Flickr user seier</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a> Kuwait National Assembly. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/xiquinho/3447464666/'>Flickr user xiquinho</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>CC BY-SA 2.0</a> Utzon's Home on Mallorca. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/drzimage/475618855/'>Flickr user drzimage</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>CC BY-SA 2.0</a> Sydney Opera House. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmyharris/114537716/'>Flickr user jimmyharris</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a> + 17

AD Classics: Kuwait National Assembly Building / Jørn Utzon

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.

Palmetto ornamentation of the debating chamber. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees Roof detail above the public plaza. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees Interior corridor. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees Section through the assembly hall + 16