International competition to reinterpret unbuilt Utzon designs

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A visualisation of Jørn Utzon’s unbuilt Silkeborg Museum (1964), produced for an exhibition titled <i>Fatamorgana – Utzon meets Jørn</i> at the Utzon Center in 2016.

A visualisation of Jørn Utzon’s unbuilt Silkeborg Museum (1964), produced for an exhibition titled Fatamorgana – Utzon meets Jørn at the Utzon Center in 2016. Image: Utzon Center

A new annual competition calls on “young creative talents” anywhere in the world to reimagine unbuilt designs by the Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon.

Run by the Aalborg-based Utzon Centre, the “Utzon Unbuilt” competition is intended to celebrate the centenary of Utzon’s birth and will run annually over the next three years. Each year entrants will interpret an unrealized Utzon design by “merging Utzon’s own project description with something they see in the project.”

The competition website says that entries “should mix Utzon’s soft pencil lines with new digital media and make the project comprehensible to a wide audience.” Entrants will be judged on their “ability to interpret and visualize Jørn Utzon’s architectural intention” and their capacity to do so “in a way which is comprehendible for a wider, non-specialized audience.” 

The first instalment of the competition will be based on Utzon’s design for a theatre in Zurich, which was produced in 1964. The complex design for a theatre in central Zurich was abandoned after it was instead decided to renovate the existing theatre. 

Successive instalments will use his competition designs for the Madrid Opera House and Jeddah Stadium. 

Lasse Andersson, creative director of the Utzon Center, said, “By using Utzon’s designs to inspire a new generation of talented architects, designers, animators and digital media developers to interpret them with a contemporary perspective, we will shed new light on Utzon’s potential.” 

“Who knows? Maybe a new Sydney Opera House-like masterpiece will emerge!”

The competition will be judged by a predominately Danish jury, comprising Andersson, Lene Tranberg (Lundgaard and Tranberg Architects), Isak Worre Foged (associate professor, Aalborg University and co-founder, Studio Area), Line Nørskov Eriksen (head of exhibition, Utzon Center) and Pritzker Prize and RIBA Royal Gold Medal laureate Rafael Moneo, who was formerly an employee of Utzon’s.

The first place winner will received a €3,500 (approximately A$5,600) travel grant, with the second place entrant receiving €1,000.

The organization is also celebrating the centenary with Horisont, an exhibition exploring Utzon’s inspirations and influences, and focus on a period of his travels in his early career between graduation and his return to Denmark following his departure from Australia in 1966. The exhibition will travel to the Sydney Opera House in October.

Registration for the 2019 competition is open until 14 February. Submissions are due by 22 March, with the jury meeting in April before the winners are announced in May.

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