8-day homage to Utzon

30 Nov 2011

Students follow in the footsteps of world-famous architect, as they seek out inspiration hidden in the Atlas Mountains

Architecture students, academics and practitioners alike can clasp the opportunity to design a project in the Atlas Mountains, retracing the steps of one of the world’s most renowned architects. Incorporating an eight-day workshop, in Morocco next Easter (1st-9th April, 2012), the foremost intention of this intensive session is to temporarily devote energies into examining the works of designer Jørn Utzon.

Known commonly for producing grand works, such as the Sydney Opera House, this notable Danish architect once spent time in 1947 discovering the inspirations to be found in the sprawling, secluded Atlas Mountains. As he ventured further, a great appreciation blossomed for the nature of the local villages; especially how they synchronised the buildings with the aesthetics of their surroundings. This appreciation of foreign concepts was to prove defining, as it quickly became an important element in his work.

Utzon’s son Jan will lead the workshop, alongside architects Juhani Pallasmaa and Richard Leplastrier. Attendees will explore Utzon’s designs, spending two days in the Atlas Mountains to recreate this unlikely brush with inspiration. Then, to mark the culmination of the trip’s proceedings, participants will be tasked to design a ‘refugium’, (an earth-based building).

The workshop is being organised jointly by the University of Portsmouth, the Jørn Utzon Research Network (JURN), the Utzon Research Center, in Denmark, and the National School of Architecture in Morocco. University of Portsmouth lecturer, Roger Tyrrell, said: “The inaugural JURN workshop provides students, academics and practitioners with a unique opportunity to explore Utzon’s work within a rich and diverse cultural and physical context… For students to spend time with local experts to see how they use indigenous materials and techniques for construction will be fascinating. Utzon was one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century and it will be exciting to explore his work in a place which he found so inspirational.”

The workshop is the result of a successful partnership between the University of Portsmouth and the Utzon Research Center at the University of Aalborg in Denmark, which came about when Roger met fellow Portsmouth School of Architecture alumnus Adrian Carter at a conference two years ago. The two academics established the Jørn Utzon Research Network (JURN), to disseminate Utzon’s archive, which comprises some 25,000 drawings and sketches, notebooks, sketchbooks, photographs and film, providing a unique insight into his work.

Tom Aston

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