Monday, 1 December 2008

Jorn Utson, Sydney Opera House Architect tribute

I have just caught up with the news of the death of the Danish architect, Jorn Utson, the man who designed the Sydney Opera House, but who, astonishingly, never ever saw the finished building.

I still find this odd - for sure, the original dispute with the city fathers must have been bitter and depressing to any architect struggling to complete the vision against escalating costs.
Moreover, the original reaction from the good people of Sydney might well have put him off.

However to keep it all going for all those years, while later accepting a commission [with his son] to finish the interior as planned speaks to some kind of rapprochement, why not 'come on down' and have a look at the real thing?

Who knows - maybe old age just caught up with him, and it was too late. Whatever the story his legacy sits in Sydney Harbour as a daily reminder of one of the great masterpieces of 20th century architecture.

Great buildings are personal
I say that, not just out of some kind of automatic tribute, but, like I suspect many other people, as a token to my own very personal relationship with this building.

It's not just that it's beautiful - it's the way it speaks to you - especially up close, and especially on a hot sunny day - the way the tiles gleam - almost sweating in the heat, like some kind of wonderful avatar for the Australian landscape, and the peoples who settled on it.

The picture is one of my own. My tribute. I took it, as so many others have, as my own personal record of a quiet moment marvelling at the intimacy of my reaction to the gleaming tiles above my head.

There will be thousands more on Flickr to joining the current eighty three thousand odd. You can even check the photostream being assembled by the BBC as its own tribute.

Finally, if you have a taste for more of the story of the project and the architect, head over to the newly launched, and totally brilliant Sydney Sidetracks from the ABC. including the ABC footage of Utson's resignation, the subsequent opening ceremony and citizens reactions.

There is also a parallel audio exhibit with archival ABC radio footage including interviews with some of the workmen, citizen reaction etc.

Go to the flag for Circular Quay and The Rocks and then, when the map refreshes, the Opera House link - sorry, couldn't find a direct link. Blame my current fevered brain - but had to get this one up - inspiration and genius needs recognising.

YouTube has some ABC footage of the opening concert. I'd prefer the ABC put up the Sydney Sidetrack clip - better still I would love them to give people like me an embed option on the Sydney Sidetracks site?

Then they make sure they retain brand and source recognition? Curiously, they offer a Quicktime download, so it is going to go viral anyway - why not manage that possibility? Creative Commons anyone?

Update 2 - More on Sydney Sidetracks.
ABC have also partnered with some other key cultural/ heritage partners - Powerhouse Museum, State Library of NSW, National Film & Sound Archives, Museum of Contemporary Art, the City of Sydney Archives, and the Dictionary of Sydney.

Seb Chan of the Powerhouse did a great interview on the project with Sarah Barns the producer and researcher for Side Tracks.

In the interview she quotes one of her influences as Alex Morgan [Hunt Angels, et al] Given this post started of as a tribute to one of Sydney's great physical icons, I thought it would be good to see digital can give its own space to the context/tension between the physical and the intangible.

“It is all too easy to fall into the trap of believing that the cultural essence of Sydney lies embedded in its architecture. It’s structures, buildings and monuments. I find this method of interpreting the past, this reliance on concrete and real estate, a faulty and unsound foundation upon which to build an understanding of the forces that shape the distinctiveness of the city…I sense that there is another city lying undiscovered beneath these bloated, familiar carcasses and that cultural interpretation by architecture is too impoverished to satisfy a secret desire to connect to something of Sydney’s past that is more elusive, more sensual, than a pile of bricks and mortar.” Alec Morgan (2004)

Seems like there is room for both kinds of imagination - much more on the interview - here


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