“He was outstanding in his time. He would be in trouble the way the world looks now.” In this interview with Louisiana channel , Danish architect Louis Becker, of Henning Larsen Architects, describes the renowned architect Jørn Utzon – who would have turned 100 in 2018 – as “a mystic” within the profession, working in unattainable ways.
At the School of Architecture in Copenhagen, Utzon was presented as “sacrosanct but also unapproachable,” which created a sort of distance to him. Becker feels that Utzon was uncompromising in two ways – he didn’t care about the business side of things, and he was unbending in his way of working: “But we don’t know, because if you’re a mystic, we wouldn’t know if there are compromises in what’s produced. I think sometimes we assign things to Utzon, which aren’t there.” Becker adds that he’s sure that Utzon too went through a process, but that this process was a private project.
Becker highlights Utzon’s Bagsværd Church as unique – “something very Nordic and a little mystic.” In continuation of this, he shares Utzon’s love of travelling, which he finds crucial: “The absolutely most important thing is to have your own concepts challenged.” Seeing Utzon’s National Assembly Building in Kuwait, Becker was fascinated by how Utzon reads Arabic culture: “That building is more Arabic than 99 per cent of the Arabic buildings around it. That’s because he reads it from the outside and translates it with his own culture, with a Nordic approach and that becomes the parliament in Kuwait.”
Louis Becker (b. 1962) is a Danish architect and the Design Principal and partner at Henning Larsen Architects. In 2008, Becker was appointed Adjunct Professor at the Aalborg University Institute of Architecture, Design and Media Technology. In 2011, he was awarded the Eckersberg Medal from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, in recognition of his excellent contributions to elevating the global presence of Danish Architecture. Among the many prestigious projects of Henning Larsen Architects are Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus, Denmark, Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center in Reykjavik, Iceland and Siemens’ Global Headquarters in Munich, Germany.
Jørn Utzon (b.1918-d.2008) was a Danish Pritzker Prize-winning architect responsible for notable buildings such as the Sydney Opera House (1973) in Australia. When it was declared a World Heritage Site in 2007, Utzon became the second person to have received such recognition for a work during his lifetime. Other noteworthy buildings by Utzon include Bagsværd Church in Denmark (1976) and the National Assembly Building in Kuwait (1982).
Louis Becker was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at Henning Larsen Architects. The interview is part of a collaboration with the Utzon Center in Aalborg, Denmark in connection with Utzon’s 100th birthday in April 2018.