Jørn Oberg Utzon was born on 9 April 1918 Copenhagen, Denmark. His father was a genius naval architect and director of a shipyard in Alborg, Denmark. He initially started helping his father in making up plans, models and studying designs. By performing all these activities he also got trained as a naval architect. Sydney Opera House in Australia is one of his most noticeable design. On 28 June 2007, it was announced as a World Heritage Site, with this Utzon became the second person who received such recognition.
Jorn Utzon first developed his interest in a naval career. As his family has keen interest arts, he joined Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1938. Utzon studied under the direction of Kay Fisker and Steen Eiler Rasmussen. For graduation, he attended Gunnar Asplund in Stockholm in 1942. In Stockholm, he started work with Poul Henningsen and Arne Jacobsen. American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was Utzon’s idol and he took a keen interest in observing his works.
Jorn Utzon returned to Copenhagen, after the end of German Occupation of Denmark and the World War II. He met Charles and Ray Eames and visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s home in Taliesin West in the Arizona Desert, America. In Copenhagen, he entrenched his own studio in 1950. In Denmark, he built an open-plan house for himself in 1952.
As Utzon was interested in Chinese architecture reflects harmony, he first traveled to China, then to Japan, here he learned about variation in the design and interaction of interiors and exteriors and in India. Jorn Utzon stayed here for nine years and keenly observes the designs. All his successful designs were only possible through his clear understanding of different factors. He returned to Australia in 1957 and made so many marvelous projects.
All Utzon’s designs had concern for nature, emphasizes the social values in material, forms, and functions. Utzon’s vision was enhanced by his fascination with the architectural legacies of the China, Japan, Mayas and the Islamic World. Utzon’s architectural designs are based on three levels, first, roof element, cultural validity and grounding of the building.
From 32 countries there was a submission of 233 designs, out of which Jorn Utzon won the prize unexpectedly for Sydney Opera House in 1957. This was his first non-domestic prize. Previously he had also won six other architectural prizes but they all were for domestic designs. Eero Saarinen, a judge present at that time, described his design as “genius”. Designs for the Sydney Opera House were a little bit more than the preliminary drawings.
In 1958, the Cahill government of New South Wales gave instructions to Utzon to start the work as soon as possible otherwise any delay in work would be lead to a lack of public support. Ove Arup and Partners, a British engineering consultancy, laid down tenders without the proper working design of the building and started construction work in 1959 on 2 March.
Podiums’ columns were not so strong to support the roof, consequence of incomplete design, and had to be built again. The Extraordinary design of the building, create confusion for the engineers. In 1961 Utzon himself came up with the solution. At first, the design includes elliptical shells but as it, create confusion Utzon replaces it with the sections of spheres. Robert Askin was elected for the New South Wales Liberal government in mid-1965.
Construction of Opera House was completed in 1973. It was opened by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. In the ceremony, Jorn Utzon was not invited and even his name neither announced during the speeches. However, he was recognized at the time of updates required for the house.
Utzon also worked at his birthplace and design Bagsværd Church. Utzon started designing the church in 1968, and the church was completed in 1976. The Church is recognized as a masterpiece. The ceiling of the church is straddled with rounded vaulting and it has naturally illuminated the interior.
In Helsingør, Utzon designed 63 L-shaped homes known as Kingo Houses in 1958, their designs were based on traditional Danish farmhouses with a central courtyard. The houses were built in rows and each house has its own view and shelter from the wind and enjoys the sunlight. Designs of Utzon’s houses shows varied and knowledgeable path relationships with the sun.
In 1963 he designed house for Danish pensioner, the Fredensborg Houses. The design contained 30 terraced houses, 47 courtyard homes, meeting rooms, nine guest rooms and as well as a restaurant. Location of the houses had natural surroundings and they grouped in three, surrounded by a square and their entrance was also from the square.
In 1950-52, he designed Architect’s own house in Hellebæk, Denmark.
In 1953-55, he designed Middleboe house in Holte, Denmark.
In 1954-66, he built Elineberg Housing in Helsingborg, Sweden.
In 1956-73, Sydney Opera House, Australia.
In 9159-60, Fredensborg Houses, Denmark.
With Hans Munk Hansen in 1959-60, he designed Melli Bank, the University of Tehran Branch in Tehran, Iran.
In 1949-51, built Water tower in Svaneke in Bornholm, Denmark.
In 1971-73, designed Can Lis an Architect’s own house in Majorca, Spain.
1n 1998, he built Skagen Odde Nature Centre in Skagen, Denmark, this design was completed in 1999-2000 by his son Jan Utzon.
In 1991-94, he designed Can Feliz in Majorca, Spain.
In 2008 with Kim Utzon, he built Utzon Centre in Aalborg.
C.F. Hansen Medal in 1967
Royal Australian Institute of Architects awarded him by RAIA Gold Medal in 1973.
Alvar Alto Medal in 1982.
Sir John Sulman Medal in 1992.
By RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1978.
By Wolf Prize in 1992.
By Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievements in 2000.
Awarded by Pritzker Award in 2003.
Utzon died on 29 November in 2008. He died at Helsingø, Denmark, his birth country. He completed 90 years of his age. He got popularity through his organic designs. The Kingo Houses near Helsingø were recognized as one of the sophisticated housing designs.