|Birth Day:||April 9, 1918|
|Death Date:||Nov 29, 2008 (age 90)|
As per our current Database, Jorn Utzon died on Nov 29, 2008 (age 90).
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He began attending the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1937; he was a student of the famed Kay Fisker and Steen Eiler Rasmussen. He began working for Gunnar Asplund after he graduated in 1942, where he collaborated with Poul Henningsen and Arne Jacobsen.
Utzon was born in Copenhagen, the son of a naval architect, and grew up in Aalborg, Denmark, where he became interested in ships and a possible naval career. As a result of his family's interest in art, from 1937 he attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where he studied under Kay Fisker and Steen Eiler Rasmussen. Following his graduation in 1942, he joined Gunnar Asplund in Stockholm where he worked together with Arne Jacobsen and Poul Henningsen. He took a particular interest in the works of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. After the end of World War II and the German Occupation of Denmark, he returned to Copenhagen.
In 1946 he visited Alvar Aalto in Helsinki. In 1947–48 he travelled in Europe, in 1948 he went to Morocco where he was taken by the tall clay buildings. In 1949, he travelled to the United States and Mexico, where the pyramids provided further inspiration. Fascinated by the way the Mayans built towards the sky to get closer to God, he commented that his time in Mexico was "One of the greatest architectural experiences in my life."
In America, he visited Frank Lloyd Wright's home, Taliesin West, in the Arizona desert and met Charles and Ray Eames. In 1950 he established his own studio in Copenhagen and, in 1952, built an open-plan house for himself, the first of its kind in Denmark. In 1957, he travelled first to China (where he was particularly interested in the Chinese desire for harmony), Japan (where he learnt much about the interaction between interiors and exteriors) and India, before arriving in Australia in 1957 where he stayed until 1966. All this contributed to Utzon's understanding of factors which contribute to successful architectural design.
In 1957, Utzon unexpectedly won the competition to design the Sydney Opera House. His submission was one of 233 designs from 32 countries, many of them from the most famous architects of the time. Although he had won six other architectural competitions previously, the Opera House was his first non-domestic project. One of the judges, Eero Saarinen, described it as "genius" and declared he could not endorse any other choice.
The designs Utzon submitted were little more than preliminary drawings. Dr. Emory Kemp's consulting career began at Ove Arup, where, he conducted analytical calculations for the roof, noting this was no simple task, as Utzon’s sketches were designed to embellish the beauty of the international landmark, not necessarily for simple mathematics. Concerned that delays would lead to lack of public support, the Cahill government of New South Wales nonetheless gave the go-ahead for work to begin in 1958. The British engineering consultancy Ove Arup and Partners put out tenders without adequate working drawings and construction work began on 2 March 1959. As a result, the podium columns were not strong enough to support the roof and had to be rebuilt. The situation was complicated by Cahill's death in October 1959.
Utzon soon found himself in conflict with the new Minister. Attempting to rein in the escalating cost of the project, Hughes began questioning Utzon's capability, his designs, schedules and cost estimates, refusing to pay running costs. In 1966, after a final request from Utzon that plywood manufacturer Ralph Symonds should be one of the suppliers for the roof structure was refused, he resigned from the job, closed his Sydney office and vowed never to return to Australia. When Utzon left, the shells were almost complete, and costs amounted to only $22.9 million. Following major changes to the original plans for the interiors, costs finally rose to $103 million.
On his return from Australia in 1966, Utzon made a stop on Mallorca. Fascinated by the island, he decided to build a summer house there on the top of a cliff near the fishing village of Portopetro. Named Can Lis after his wife, the house was based on the home he had intended to build in Australia but was inspired by local materials and climate, setting standards for contemporary Mediterranean architecture. The house consists of five loosely linked blocks with a colonnaded outdoor area, a living room and two bedrooms, each with its own courtyard.
While some of Utzon's most notable works are spread around the globe, he was most prolific in his native Denmark, whose landscape inspired him more than any other. Bagsværd Church, just north of Copenhagen, is considered to be a masterpiece of contemporary church architecture, thanks to its bright, naturally illuminated interior and its concrete ceiling straddled with softly-rounded vaulting inspired by clouds. Designed in 1968, the church was completed in 1976. The Kingo Houses in Helsingør (1958) consist of 63 L-shaped homes based on the design of traditional Danish farmhouses with central courtyards. Built in rows following the undulations of the site, each of the houses not only has a view of its own but enjoys the best possible conditions for sunlight and shelter from the wind. Utzon described the arrangement as "flowers on the branch of a cherry tree, each turning towards the sun." In general, Utzon's houses display sophisticated and varied relationships to the path of the sun.
The Opera House was finally completed, and opened in 1973 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. The architect was not invited to the ceremony, nor was his name even mentioned during any of the speeches. He was, however, to be recognised later when he was asked to design updates to the interior of the opera house. The Utzon Room, overlooking Sydney Harbour, was officially dedicated in October 2004. In a statement at the time Utzon wrote: "The fact that I'm mentioned in such a marvellous way, it gives me the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. I don't think you can give me more joy as the architect. It supersedes any medal of any kind that I could get and have got." Furthermore, Frank Gehry, one of the Pritzker Prize judges, commented: "Utzon made a building well ahead of its time, far ahead of available technology, and he persevered through extraordinarily malicious publicity and negative criticism to build a building that changed the image of an entire country."
Kuwait's National Assembly Building, completed in 1982, stands on the sea front with (in Utzon's words) "haze and white light and an untidy town behind." Benefiting from an understanding of Islamic architecture, Utzon designed a building consisting of a covered square, a parliamentary chamber, a conference hall, and a mosque. Its waving roof conveys the impression of moving fabric. Its columns are reminiscent of the Karnak temples.
On 17 May 1985, Utzon was made an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia (AC). He was given the Keys to the City of Sydney in 1998. He was involved in redesigning the Opera House, and in particular, the Reception Hall, beginning in 1999. In 2003, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Sydney; his son accepted the award on his behalf. In 2003, he received the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honor.
A few years later, he went on to design the Fredensborg Houses (1963) for Danish pensioners who had worked for long periods abroad. Utzon helped select the site, and planned a complex consists of 47 courtyard homes and 30 terraced houses as well as a central building with a restaurant, meeting rooms and nine guest rooms. His design was inspired by housing in Beijing's Forbidden City. The homes are located around a square in groups of three, designed to maximize privacy, natural lighting, and views of the surrounding countryside. When he was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2003, Utzon was specifically lauded for his working designing housing projects that, the jury said, were "designed with people in mind."
In 2005, in close collaboration with his son Kim Utzon, he helped to plan the Utzon Center in Aalborg (completed 2008) designed to inspire young students of architecture. Located on the waterfront, its high sculptured roofs rise over an auditorium, a boathall and a library while the lower roofs of its exhibition rooms and workshops surround a central courtyard, sheltered from the wind.
The Utzon Center in Aalborg, designed together with his son Kim, was the architect's last assignment. In 2005 he commented, "From the bottom of my heart, I hope that the Utzon Center will be a place where positive thoughts converge and where students from the School of Architecture gather when they want to get together to discuss their ideas. It is intended to be a power centre for the architects and people of the future."
In March 2006, Queen Elizabeth II opened the western colonnade addition to the building designed by Utzon who had not returned to Australia since 1966. His son, Jan, took his place at the opening ceremony instead, saying his father was "too old by now to take the long flight to Australia. But he lives and breathes the Opera House, and as its creator he just has to close his eyes to see it."
On 28 June 2007, the Sydney Opera House was declared a World Heritage Site.
Utzon died in Copenhagen on 29 November 2008, aged 90, of a heart attack in his sleep after a series of operations. He had never returned to Australia to see the completed opera house. On 2 December 2008 the Parliament of New South Wales passed a special motion of condolence to honour Utzon's life and work. He was survived by his wife, Lis, his sons Jan and Kim, his daughter Lin, and several grandchildren. His sons are trained architects and his daughter is a designer, muralist and artist who was at one time married to the Australian architect Alex Popov.
Following Utzon's death in 2008, on 25 March 2009, a state memorial and reconciliation concert was held in the Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House.
Currently, Jorn Utzon is 104 years, 5 months and 27 days old. Jorn Utzon will celebrate 105th birthday on a Sunday 9th of April 2023.
Find out about Jorn Utzon birthday activities in timeline view here.