Jørn Oberg Utzon, April 9, 1918 – November 29, 2008) was a Danish architect, most notable for designing the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
When it was declared a World Heritage Site on June 28, 2007, Utzon became only the second person to have received such recognition for one of his works during his lifetime. Other noteworthy works include Bagsværd Church near Copenhagen and the National Assembly Building in Kuwait. He also made important contributions to housing design, especially with his Kingo Houses near Helsingør.
Utzon had a Nordic sense of concern for nature which, in his design, emphasized the synthesis of form, material and function for social values. His fascination with the architectural legacies of the ancient Mayas, the Islamic world, China and Japan enhanced his vision. This developed into what Utzon later referred to as Additive Architecture, comparing his approach to the growth patterns of nature. A design can grow like a tree, he explained: “If it grows naturally, the architecture will look after itself.”
In 1957, Utzon unexpectedly won the competition to design the Sydney Opera House. His submission was one of 233 designs from 32 countries, many of them from the most famous architects of the day. Although he had won six other architectural competitions previously, the Opera House was his first non-domestic project. One of the judges, Eero Saarinen, described it as “genius” and declared he could not endorse any other choice.