COPENHAGEN – The Danish Architecture Center opened on Wednesday a retrospective commemorating the 100th birthday anniversary of Denmark’s star architect Jørn Utzon, the creator of the iconic Sydney Opera House.
The “Jørn Utzon – Horisont” exhibition features work Utzon produced over the course of his career, encompassing his many travels, his curiosity for foreign cultures and how this influenced the highly personal style of the 2003 Pritzker architectural award winner.
“He was a charismatic figure, a kind of magician, very much inspired by his frequent travels and by his fascination towards ancient times architecture, which he took many photographs of,” director of the DAC Kent Martinussen said during a press conference.
Through Utzon’s own photographs, films, drawings and scale models, the exhibition covers his main inspiration sources and explores his creative process that led him in 1947 to travel across Morocco’s Atlas mountains for a two-year sojourn where he learned about local traditional architecture, and which was soon followed by other trips to other locations around the world.
In 1949, Utzon traveled to Mexico where he became fascinated by the use of platforms in Aztec and Mayan temples.
This fascination was reflected in many of his later projects, such as the Sydney Opera House, which was inspired by Chinese temples and their “floating” roofs. He gained worldwide recognition but abandoned the project in 1966 after clashing with local authorities on costs and schedule overruns.
Decades later, he would return to his masterpiece to oversee the renewal of its interior.
Utzon’s 2003 Pritzker Prize citation describes his achievement: “There is no doubt the Sydney Opera House is his masterpiece. It is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world.”
Utzon’s travels to China, Japan, Nepal, India, Iran and the United States also influenced his later work.
A good example of Utzon’s talent is the Kuwaiti Parliament where the inner structure resembles an Islamic bazaar and its facades are inspired by Bedouin tents.
The DAC exhibition also highlighted the two residences Utzon built in Mallorca, his “second home” where he retired to before finally returning to Denmark until his death on Dec. 6, 2008, aged 90.
“Jørn Utzon-Horisont” runs until March 3, 2019.