Glimpse the eclectic array of influences that inspired Jørn Utzon’s remarkable design.
“Asplund is the father of modern Scandinavian architecture. He progressed beyond the purely functional and created a wonderful sense of wellbeing in his buildings.
“He even included symbolic content imbuing each of his buildings with a unique personality, one that expressly emanates the purpose of the building, completely covering and expressing the function, the lifestyle, the way of life lived in the building.” – Jørn Utzon
In 1945, Utzon worked briefly with the great Scandinavian architect Alvar Aalto, who was himself deeply inspired by Gunnar Asplund, who in the 1930s had begun to champion modernism.
Both Aalto and Asplund combined the traditions of Nordic classicism with emerging modernist principles, a fusion that proved so important to Utzon. Much later, Utzon noted how, in choosing to live in a beech forest and to reflect natural forms and functions in his work, he had been following Aalto's advice.
“Asplund in Sweden and Aalto in Finland possess something beyond pure functionalism. They sometimes display what I would term a spiritual superstructure. It is called poetry. This superstructure makes every house reflect exactly the life in the house.”
– Jørn Utzon
Utzon saw how these temples lifted people above their daily lives to a transcendent plateau where, beneath the clouds and sky, they could commune with their gods.
"The platform as an architectural element is a fascinating feature. I first fell in love with it in Mexico on a study trip in 1949 ... By introducing the platform with its level at the same height as the jungle top, these people had suddenly obtained a new dimension of life, worthy of their devotion to their Gods. On these high platforms – many of them as long as 100 metres – they built their temples. They had from here the sky, the clouds and the breeze, and suddenly the jungle roof had been converted into a great open plain. By this architectural trick they had completely changed the landscape and supplied their visual life with a greatness corresponding to the greatness of their Gods."
– Jørn Utzon, from Platform and Plateaus, Zodiac no.10, 1962
The Spherical Solution, which defines the final form of the roof of the Sydney Opera House, is one ideal example from many of the use of natural forms in Utzon's approach to architecture.
By defining parts of the surface of the sphere that best suited the existing shapes of the shells, each new form could be extracted. Further, one profile for each of the shells was all that was required as this would be mirrored to complete the arch. The Minor Hall of the Sydney Opera House is essentially identical to the Major Hall except in scale.
Created by Sam Doust and the
Sydney Opera House GCI Team
State Records NSW