Rafael Moneo Interview: On Jørn Utzon

Pritzker prizewinning architect Rafael Moneo spent a year with Danish architect Jørn Utzon in 1961, when Utzon was working on the Sydney Opera House. The Spanish architect here shares how he experienced Utzon – who would have turned 100 in 2018 – in the face of the outstanding project.

Moneo recalls how Utzon was always secure of himself, even in difficult situations concerning the work on the Sydney Opera House: “He always kept the calm. He had this condition of an almost heroic figure.” Back then there was already an awareness that the Sydney Opera House “was going to be the highlight of recent architecture.”

“The character of the work has something to do with his personality as well.” Moneo feels that there was continuity between Utzon and his work – the Danish architect was very independent and didn’t want to be trapped by being modernist for the pleasure of being modernist, but always made sure that each of his projects had real substance – and something distinctive.

Rafael Moneo (b. 1937) is a Spanish architect known for his highly contextual buildings, which include Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium in San Sebastián, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, the Davis Art Museum in Massachusetts and the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, Spain. After graduating from the Madrid University School of Architecture in 1961, he travelled Europe in order to work with Jørn Utzon and Alvar Aalto before returning to Madrid. Moneo is the recipient of prestigious awards such as the Pritzker Prize for architecture (1996) (the first ever Spanish architect to receive this prize), the 2003 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, the 2012 Prince of Asturias Award, the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture (2012) and the Praemium Imperiale (2017).

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).

Rafael Moneo was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his studio in Madrid in November 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: Mathias Nyholm Schmidt
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Dreyers Fond

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