Jorn Utzon and the Sydney Opera House

2 12 2008














“It’ll never make it under the bridge, cap`n!”  (Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge)



Jorn Utzon has died at age 90. I must confess that I didn’t recognise his name and if pressed, I might have guessed he was a founding member of Abba…until his age suggested this unlikely. As I read further I felt ashamed that I didn’t know him because Jorn Utzon designed one of my favourite buildings in the world: the iconic Sydney Opera House.


Although architects sport top designs and are renowned for their figures, they rarely attain the fame of supermodels.  And though few are household names, their creations are instantly recognisable the world over.


There are a few exceptions. Many people know that Christopher Wren was responsible for St Paul’s Cathedral; Filippo Brunelleschi had a rather impressive dome in Florence; Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia was the work of Antoni Gaudi and Gustave Eiffel attained the pinnacle of his profession with the pinnacle of Paris, but most other architects do not achieve their wide level of fame.


Sydney would be a beautiful city even if Utzon hadn’t flirted with controversy and submitted a design for the city’s new opera house that resembled a ship in full sail cruising into the harbour. The bridge would still be eye-catching; the skyline would still provide a dramatic backdrop; the green spaces and beautiful homes that roll down to the shoreline would still give the city a welcoming air and the busy marine traffic in the harbour would still be captivating, but it is the Opera House that sits like a radiant carnation in the lapel of a perfectly-cut suit.


Sydney regularly features in lists of the most beautiful cities in the world alongside Cape Town, Venice, Vancouver and others and Jorn Utzon’s contribution is more than a little responsible for those accolades.


Right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was perched on a cloud with a pencil in his hand helping St Peter design a new set of Pearly Gates. If so, I bet they’ll be just as cutting edge and controversial.



Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan




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