Regarding Utzon Center
Architecture for everybody
The world famous architect Jørn Utzon designed the Utzon Center in Aalborg in collaboration with his son Kim Utzon. The Utzon Center was his last work before he died 28 November 2008 - ninety years old.
By Line Christensen
We put the clock back to the 1930s. When the bell rang and school was over at the Klostermarksskolen in Aalborg, Jørn Utzon strolled along the waterfront to the Aalborg Shipyeard where his father worked as a naval engineer. Some days he sailed on the Lim Fjord in his dinghy.
“I am a real Aalborg boy. I know the city inside out, and at school-age I was incredibly dependent and alert to the city. I was lucky to have the Lim Fjord and the shipyard as my playground” Jørn Utzon says in an interview back in 2005.
At first Jørn Utzon’s ambition was to be a naval engineer like his father Aage Utzon, but then in 1937 he chose to apply to be a student in the School of Architecture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.
The career gains speed
Jørn Utzon gained his graduate degree in 1942, but not until he was 38 (1957) where he won an international architectural competition for the Opera House in Sydney his career really gained speed.
The next many years he worked on creating the most famous building of the century, and everything went according to the plan until the change of government in 1965. The exterior of the Opera House was finished and Jørn Utzon was about to work on the interior. However the new ruling party wanted the building finished quickly and inexpensive. Therefore they suspended the payments to Jørn Utzon, who pulled out from the construction in 1966. Australian architects completed the construction, and the Opera House in Sydney was finished in 1973.
Jørn Utzon had returned to Denmark. Here he started his next project - the Roman houses in Elsinore. Many drawings and buildings later he got the responsible task of designing the parliament building in Kuwait (1972), which is inspired by the Bedouin culture. Throughout the years he also built two houses in Mallorca in Spain for himself and his wife.
Architecture for everybody
His career took him far around the world, but all through his life the sea, the shipyard and the sailing ships in Aalborg were an essential source of inspiration to Jørn Utzon.
He also had a primary objective for his architecture. What he created, he created for and to man. The buildings were meant to be used whether for political purposes like the parliament building in Kuwait, religious purposes like the church in Bagsværd, music and culture like the Opera House in Sydney - or dwellings in which ordinary people could enjoy living.
In 2003 Jørn Utzon was the first Dane to receive the Nobel Prize of architecture - the Pritzker Prize. In his arguments for the award the chairman of the jury, Lord Rothschild, referred to Utzon’s talent in general and the Opera House in Sydney in particular.
“Jørn Utzon created one of the 20th century’s great iconic buildings, a picture of great beauty known to the whole world…. Apart from his masterpiece he has the entire life worked fastidiously, brilliantly, unostentatiously, never with a false or abrasive tone. Therefore he is a most worthy prize recipient of the Pritzker Prize”, Lord Rothschild said.
Back to the waterfront
Jørn Utzon’s last building was the Utzon Center on the Aalborg waterfront, which he designed in collaboration with his son Kim Utzon. His wish was clear. The Utzon Center should not be a museum, but a living centre of knowledge and exhibitions.
“From the bottom of my heart I hope that the Utzon Center will be a place where good thoughts will meet, and where the students from the School of Architecture will go, when they want to be together to discuss their ideas. It is meant to be a power centre for the architecture and the human life in the future”, Jørn Utzon said about the house in 2005.
The Utzon Center was inaugurated in May 2008 and it is a meeting place on the Aalborg waterfront where architecture, design and art, exhibitions and conferences, meetings and culinary experiences play together.
The Utzon Center consists of two exhibition halls, the Spidsgatter Hall, a workshop for the Architecture and Design students from Aalborg University, the Utzon Library, The Obel Auditorium on the first upstairs floor with a view to the Lim Fjord and the Utzon Café & Restaurant. The entire house is built around the Atrium Courtyard.
“We have built the Utzon Center around a courtyard, as my experience from life at the Lim Fjord is that it is windy. Around the courtyard there is a glass corridor which gives access to all rooms. The age of a human being gives a certain richness, and in the same way I hope that the courtyard will give richness to the centre”.
A beginning and an end
Jørn Utzon grew up in Aalborg, and it was here he ended his glorious career. “I have been lucky that the Opera House in Sydney came out successfully thanks to the pioneering spirit behind it. To do such a thing at that time in Australia at all reminds me of what they do in Aalborg. They build a new and unknown house and believe in it. This is the typical Aalborg-pioneer spirit, which I know from the shipyard”, Jørn Utzon said in an interview about the Utzon Center back in 2005.
At his death the 28 November 2008 Jørn Utzon left his wife Lis and the children Lin, Jan and Kim.
Photo: Thomas Mølvig
Photo: Jens Morten
Photo: Jens Morten
Facts about Jørn Utzon:
9 April 1918 - 28 November 2008
Born in Copenhagen
Grew up in Aalborg
1942 educated from the School of Architecture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen
1950 establishment of his own architecture firm
In 1957 he won the international competition for the Opera House in Sydney which is today one of the greatest architectural icons of the 20th century
in 2003 Jørn Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Prize as the only Dane ever. The prize is considered the highest award within the world of architecture
Married to Lis with whom he has the children Lin (artist), Jan (architect) and Kim (architect).
Buildings designed by Jørn Utzon:
1946: Water tower, Svaneke
1952: Jørn Utzon’s own house, Hellebæk
1952: Dronninggårdsvej 42, Holte
1957: The Sydney Opera House, Australia
1957: The Roman houses/Kingo houses at Elsinore
1959: Melli Bank, Teheran
1959: The Fredensborg houses
1968: Skoleby, Herning
1969: Espansiva, Hellebæk
1971: Jørn Utzon’s own house, Can Lis, Mallorca
1973: The Parliament Building, Kuwait
1974: Bagsværd Church
1985: The Paustian Furniture House, Københavns Frihavn (in collaboration with his son Jan Utzon)
1989: Skagen Odde Naturcenter (built in 1999 by Jan Utzon)
1992: Jørn Utzon’s own house, Can Feliz, Mallorca
1997: Musikhuset, Esbjerg (in collaboration with his son Jan Utzon)
2008: The Utzon Center, Aalborg (in collaboration with his son Kim Utzon)
Facts about the Utzon Center:
The Utzon Center was inaugurated in May 2008
The Utzon Center is designed by Jørn Utzon and his son Kim Utzon
The Utzon Center consists of two exhibition halls, the Spidsgatter Hall, a workshop for the Architecture and Design students from Aalborg University, the Utzon Library, The Utzon Archives, The Obel Auditorium on the first upstairs floor and the Utzon Café & Restaurant. The entire house is built around the Atrium Courtyard.