Tuesday, 2 December 2008

An Icon of Architecture

Saturday was a sad day for world architecture with the death of the Danish architect, Jørn Utzon, designer of the Sydney Opera House. The great sails were dimmed on Sunday as a tribute and mark of respect.

The Opera House remains one of the most iconic examples of architecture, and is perhaps the most internationally recognisable building of the 20th Century. At a time when modern architecture has acquired a very mixed reputation in the eyes of the public, from the problems of post-war system building to the 'carbuncle' accusations of the Prince of Wales, here is a building which has not just been admired, but taken to heart by many.

And yet its construction (which lasted nearly 15 years) was equally legendary for its technical problems, cost overruns and off-site rows, which ultimately led to Utzon's resignation. It's still not entirely clear who was to blame, although - with hindsight - it's probably fair to say that no-one realised at the time quite what a ground-breaking and complex design it was. But there can be no doubt that it graces its waterside location perfectly and, alongside the adjacent Harbour bridge, has become the very image of modern Sydney - as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Utzon never visited the finished structure, but was said not have held a grudge over the episode: perhaps the greatest tribute to his talent is that all three of his children have since become architects.

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