Danish Architect Jørn Utzon Becomes 2003 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who designed what has arguably become the most famous building in the world, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, has been chosen as the 2003 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize which marks its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. The 84 year-old Utzon has retired to a house he designed for himself on the island of Majorca, but his two sons, Jan and Kim, continue the practice of Utzon Architects in Haarby, Denmark.

In announcing the jury’s choice, Thomas J. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, said, “Jørn Utzon has designed a remarkably beautiful building in Australia that has become a national symbol to the rest of the world. In addition, in a most distinguished career, he has designed several other significant works, including housing complexes, a church, residences, and other commercial buildings. We are delighted that the jury has seen fit to recognize this great talent as we celebrate our first quarter of a century.”

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, Lord Rothschild, commented, “Jørn Utzon created one of the great iconic buildings of the twentieth century, an image of great beauty known throughout the world. In addition to this masterpiece, he has worked throughout his life fastidiously, brilliantly, quietly and with never a false or jarring note. He is therefore a most distinguished recipient of the Pritzker Prize.”

The formal ceremony for what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture's highest honor will be held on May 20, 2003 in Madrid, Spain. At that time, a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion are bestowed. Utzon is the first Dane to become a Pritzker Laureate, and the 27th honoree since the prize was established in 1979. His selection continues what has become a ten-year trend of laureates from the international community.

Bill Lacy, an architect, spoke as the executive director of the Pritzker Prize, quoting from the jury citation which states, “Utzon has always been ahead of his time. He rightly joins the handful of Modernists who have shaped the past century with buildings of timeless and enduring quality.”


Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic and member of the jury, commented further saying, “It has taken half a century to understand the true path of architecture in our time, to pick up the threads of continuity and the signposts to the future, to recognize the broader and deeper meaning of 20th century work that has been subjected to doctrinaire modernist criticism and classification, or tabled as history. In this light, the work of Jørn Utzon takes on a particular richness and significance.”

Another juror, Carlos Jimenez from Houston who is professor of architecture at Rice University, said, “Singular is an attribute that embodies the life and work of Jørn Utzon. The unique resolve and erudition of this architect’s few but compelling works have captured the imagination of architects and the public alike ever since his brilliant debut in the international scene almost fifty years ago. ”

And from juror Jorge Silvetti, who chairs the Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, “Paradoxically, while the act of awarding in 2003 the Pritzker Prize to Jørn Utzon may be perceived as long overdue, it comes at such a particular moment in the development of architecture as to be timely and exemplary. In the current frenzy of unbound personal expressionism and blind subordination to attention-grabbing production techniques, his explorations remind us that both ‘expression and technique’ are servants and secondary to more profound and foundational architectural ideas. His work shows us that the marvelous and seemingly ‘impossible’ in architecture depend still on genial minds and able hands."


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