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Jørn Utzon, Architect (1918-2008)


Jørn Utzon was a Danish architect best known for designing the Sydney Opera House in Australia. He died in Copenhagen of a heart attack last weekend, age 90. Utzon won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2003. 

Jørn Utzon and his wife Lis spent large periods of time in Mallorca during the last 40 years. Utzon designed their first Mallorcan house, Can Lis, in 1971, to be built near Portopetro on a precipice above the Mediterranean Sea (see both photos). He used mainly marés, the Mallorcan sandstone with colours varying from brown to pink, as a building material. Twenty years later, an eye condition spurred Utzon to move away to avoid the glare from the sea and the constantly pounding surf beneath his house, but also to avert the hoards of architecture enthusiasts that passed by in busloads.


The new Mallorcan Utzon house was called Can Feliz and was built using the same local materials. The house was again situated in Mallorca’s South East, near s’Horta, but now further inland, nestling on the side of a mountain. Its position still enjoyed the views of the Mediterranean Sea, but this time from a distance.

Utzon built a third house in Mallorca near Cala Mondrago, a summer house for his daughter Lin, an artist.

The irony of it all is that this great architect was not allowed to submit plans for his Mallorcan homes himself, but had to have his plans signed and submitted by a local architect from Mallorca. Despite the fact that Utzon designed a string of other important buildings apart from the Sydney Opera House, like the Kuwait National Assembly (Kuwait) and the Bagsværd Church in Copenhagen (Denmark), the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Baleares in Palma de Mallorca treated this genius just like anybody else.

The photo (top) was taken near Portopetro, Mallorca, Spain. The date: December 1st, 2008. The time was 12:42:19. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Pritzkerprize website (where this house is credited with a wrong name in a wrong location, believe it or not). Thank you very much, anyway.

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December 2008


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