“I thought, it’s incredible that an architect can make something that is so good for humanity.” The influential 81-year-old Danish architect Jan Gehl here describes his first meeting with the Sydney Opera House in 1976, and talks about its incredible symbolic significance: “The Opera House and a kangaroo, then you’re bang on.”
Gehl was still attending architecture school in the late 1950s when Jørn Utzon had won the competition in Sydney and gave lectures about it at the school. Many years later, in 1976 when Gehl was in Australia for the first time as a guest lecturer, he saw the Sydney Opera House and was extremely moved: “It’s a sublime building, and it’s been amazingly influential. It’s become the symbol, not just for Sydney, but for all of Australia. If you show the Opera House, everyone knows you’re talking about Australia.” When Gehl got the opportunity to work with town planning in Sydney, it furthermore became clear that he was working in a city, where Utzon left a strong Danish heritage, not least due to the Opera House: “I’ve particularly taken pleasure in that Opera House and in seeing how now, 60 years later, it’s still so beautiful. It’s a building that’s patinated in a wonderful way. Every time it rains, it’s cleaned and shines anew.”
Jan Gehl (b.1936) is a Danish architect and urban design consultant, who has focused on improving the quality of urban life by re-orienting city design towards the pedestrian and the cyclist – Copenhagen’s car-free zone Strøget, one of the longest pedestrian shopping areas in Europe, is primarily the result of Gehl’s work. In 1971 Gehl published his influential book ‘Life Between Buildings’. In 2007-8, he was hired by New York City’s Department of Transportation to re-imagine New York City streets by introducing designs to improve life for pedestrians and cyclists. Among several prestigious awards, he is the recipient of the Sir Patrick Abercrombie Prize (1993), the EDRA Award (1998), the 2009 NYC Award and the Prince Eugen Medal (2011) for outstanding artistic achievement in architecture (Denmark). Gehl is a founding partner of Gehl Architects. For more see: http://gehlpeople.com/story/
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).
Jan Gehl was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at ‘Gehl – Copenhagen’ in Denmark in March 2017. The interview is part of a collaboration with the Utzon Center in Aalborg, Denmark in connection with Utzon’s 100th birthday in April 2018.
Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Cover photo: The Sydney Opera House, Courtesy of Utzon Center/Utzon Archives
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018
Supported by Dreyers Fond
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