Jørn Utzon

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Jørn Oberg Utzon (born April 9, 1918 in Copenhagen ; † November 29, 2008 near Copenhagen) was a Danish architect who became famous for building the Sydney Opera House . In 2003 Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Prize for his life's work.



Jørn Utzon was the son of Aage Utzon, a yacht designer , and Estrid Utzon. He had an older brother named Leif. Jørn attended a private school in mathematics and science. He was a mediocre student, and in mathematics , he did very badly.

In 1930 the Utzon family visited the Stockholm architecture and design fair in Stockholm . Light, bright furniture and the concept of air and light were presented there. The family then changed their entire way of life, removed the gloomy Victorian furniture from the house in favor of light, practical furnishings and switched their diet to light, healthy food. The children were given bicycles so that they could move around in the fresh air.

Jørn helped his father make construction drawings and models. In the 1930s he met the artist Poul Schrøder , who taught him to draw with charcoal pencils.

Career as an architect

After school, Jørn Utzon wanted to pursue an officer career in the Navy , but was not accepted at the officers' school because of poor grades. In 1937 he began studying architecture in Copenhagen. In 1942 he became an employee of Paul Hedqvist in Stockholm. In 1946 he worked for Alvar Aalto for half a year . He then lived for a short time with Frank Lloyd Wright in Taliesin and toured Mexico and Europe.

In 1950 Jørn Utzon founded his own architectural office in Copenhagen. He made a name for himself there with residential buildings, including his own house built in 1952, as well as the Kingo garden courtyard housing complex in Helsingør, built in 1958–1960, and the terraced and courtyard house settlement in Fredensborg, built in 1962–1963 . The water tower built in 1950 in Svaneke on Bornholm comes from him.


Sydney Opera House.
Bagsværd Church near Copenhagen.
The Parliament of Kuwait.

In 1957 he became famous overnight when he competition to design the Opera House in Sydney won.

This success brought Utzon a worldwide reputation and orders. For example, in 1963 he was entrusted with building the Melli Bank in Tehran . This was followed by a stadium in Saudi Arabia in 1967 , the Church of Bagsværd near Copenhagen in 1976 and the parliament building in Kuwait from 1972-1987 , which he and his son Jan tackled.

His most famous building, however, the Sydney Opera House, initially seemed to end in personal failure: the initially estimated budget of 3.5 million US dollars was nowhere near enough to finance the statically demanding roof construction and the sophisticated interior design. When the cost reached $ 57 million , New South Wales Prime Minister Robert Askin called for an end to unpredictable cost increases. When Jørn Utzon refused to agree to a cheaper compromise solution for the interior design, he was excluded from the project in 1966. A group of young Australian architects and a team of engineers led by Ove Arup completed the work. Utzon was convinced that the compromises made would ruin the work and at the opening, critics and artists partially agreed that he was right. One complained about the general narrowness, too small halls, too steep stairs, and above all about poor acoustics. The functionality of the interiors does not do justice to the great exterior in some ways, according to the critics.

Jørn Utzon never set foot on Australian soil again after his dismissal from the opera house project, which was originally due to the shame he felt. Since the 1990s, however, he took a more conciliatory stance, but now it was age and health that prevented the architect from fully inspecting his masterpiece for the first time.

But he remained true to his intentions and the construction business. In 1963 he was commissioned to build the Melli Bank in Tehran. In the late 1960s, he built a stadium in Saudi Arabia. Together with his son Jan, who went into business after graduating, he built the parliament building in Kuwait until 1987. And in Denmark itself, he built the Bagsvaert Church in Copenhagen and the Paustian furniture store in 1976.

Old age in Mallorca

Jørn Utzon recently lived in seclusion in one of the two extraordinary houses he had built on Mallorca . He consistently shielded his private life from the public. Only in 1998, on his 80th birthday, did he make an exception and gave Australian television an exclusive interview.

In 2003 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney. But since he was unable to travel due to his health, his son Jan accepted this award for him.

Utzon died in November 2008 at the age of 90 in a nursing home north of Copenhagen after failing to recover from an operation a few months earlier.

Important buildings

Skagen Odde Nature Center, Denmark, 1989
Bagsværd Church - interior, Copenhagen
  • Utzon house in Hellebæk (1952)
  • Water tower in Svaneke (1952)
  • Villa, Dronninggårdsvej 42, Holte (1952)
  • Housing construction, Helsingborg , Sweden (1954, 1st prize together with E. og H. Andersson, realized 1966)
  • Villa with studio for Ejler Bille and Agnete Therkildsen , Glentevej 8, Vejby Strand (1955, together with Ib Møgelvang )
  • Kingo houses in Helsingør (1956-1960)
  • Sydney Opera House in Sydney Australia (1956–1966, completed by another architect)
  • Romer's house in Helsingør (1958)
  • Melli Bank University, Tehran , Iran (1959, together with Hans Munk Hansen )
  • Hammershøj in Helsingør (project 1962, realized 1966 by Birger Schmidt)
  • Fredensborg settlement, Bakkedraget 1–79, Fredensborg (1962–1963)
  • Dansk Samvirkes bebyggelse Terrasserne, Fredensborg (1962–1963)
  • Model house for Espansiva-princippet, Hellebæk (1969–1971)
  • House Utzon, Can Lis, Mallorca (1971)
  • Parliament building in Kuwait (1973–1982)
  • Church , Bagsværd near Copenhagen (1974–1976)
  • Paustian Furniture Store, North Harbor Copenhagen (1985–1986)
  • House Utzon, Can Feliz, Mallorca (1992–1994)
  • Skagen Odde Nature Center, Denmark, 1989 (completed by his son Jan Utzon 1999–2000)
  • Esbjerg Music House in Ribe

Most important unrealized buildings:

  • School in Helsingør, Denmark (1958–1962)
  • Architect's House, Bayview, Sydney, Australia (1963-1965)
  • Museum for the Works of Asger Jorn, Silkeborg, Denmark (1963)
  • New theater on Heimplatz, Zurich, Switzerland (1964–1970)
  • Jeita Theater, Lebanon (1968)
  • Stadium, Jedda, Saudi Arabia (1969)

Awards and honors

He accepted an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney for his work at the Opera House, but was unable to make the long journey to Australia due to illness. His son Jan accepted this for him.


  • Kenneth Frampton, Nils-Ole Lund, Rafael Moneo: Jørn Utzon . Pustet, Salzburg 1999, ISBN 3-7025-0408-7 .
  • Richard Weston: Utzon: Inspiration, Vision, Architecture . Edition Blondal, 2002, ISBN 87-88978-98-2 .
    German edition: Utzon . Nieswand Verlag, 2001, ISBN 978-3-89567-019-0 .
  • Philip Drew: Sydney Opera House, Joern Utzon . Phaidon Press, 2002, ISBN 0-7148-4215-X .
  • Kenneth Frampton: Jørn Utzon: The Architect's Universe . Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2005, ISBN 87-90029-93-3 .
  • Tobias Faber: Jørn Utzon: Houses in Fredensborg. Photogr. Jens Frederiksen. Ed .: Axel Menges. Ernst & Sohn, 1991, ISBN 3-433-02702-1 , 57 p. ill., graph. Darst. Geb.
  • Werner Meyer: The Sydney Opera House, Australia. Journey of discovery into the unknown . Film from the series “Treasures of the World” 15 'SWR 2008.

Web links

Commons : Jørn Utzon  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sydney Opera House designer Joern Utzon dies . AP at google.com, November 29, 2008 (accessed November 29, 2008)
  2. Ulf Meyer: He created the symbol of Sidney In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of April 9, 2018
  3. contemporarybalears.com ( Memento of the original from November 29, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.contemporarybalears.com
  4. Spiegel Online : “Star architect Jørn Utzon is dead” , November 29, 2008
  5. NZZ Online : A “Recke of Modern Architecture” - The Danish architect Jørn Utzon (1918–2008), Zurich and the new theater at Heimplatz nzz.ch , April 3, 2012