JORN UTZON—HEROIC ARCHITECT. The weekend Financial Times has an obituary for Jern Utzon, the Danish architect who designed the Sydney Opera House, one of the great buildings of the last century. The obituary tells a dramatic story. Utzon won the competition for the commission for the Sydney Opera House in 1956 at a time when he had built very little. He won because Eero Saarinen, a member of the jury, retrieved his entry from the reject pile and declared it the winner. As with some other great buildings, there were problems with cost overruns. The obituary and this wikipedia article cast blame on local officials for the budget problem. Payments to the architect’s office were stopped, and he resigned and “walked out, vowing never to return. He kept his promise.” He never saw the completed masterpiece. He built little else, although the obituary praises a church in Bagsvaerd in Denmark as “one of the great unsung structures of the 20th century.” The wikipedia article quotes an article in Harvard Design Magazine in 2005: “Utzon was thirty-eight when he won the competition for the Opera House – how would the work of the mature master have enriched our lives? We’ll never know. That’s the high price Sydney has imposed by its incompetence in building the Opera House.” The obituary cites the church in Bagsvaerd as an exception to the myth surrounding Utzon: “that the opera house destroyed the career of a genius who could have become one of the great figures of modern architecture, one who might have shifted the history of design.”

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