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Visions for the Utzon Center


The idea I presented to your father, was that the Utzon Center should be a home for the preservation, study and exhibition of his work, together with that also of his father; that made the connection from the Aalborg shipyard and his yacht designs to your father’s design of the Sydney Opera House clear. As well as most importantly providing the inspiration for a working boatyard environment, where students, boat builders, architects, designers and artists could work creatively together and physically realize their visions. This was the aspect of the project that most excited your father and I believe the reason he was prepared to put his name to the project and became so involved in its design. Particularly since, as he explained to me, he had visited the Ulm Design School in the late 1960´s and had been so impressed by the creative atmosphere there, with artists, craftspeople, designers and architects all working collaboratively together, that he wanted to create an environment with a similar potential, in connection with our newly established architecture and design education. The programme for the building that Thomas Arvid Jaeger and I proposed was based on that vision and the idea, that as well focusing on your father and grandfather’s work, that the Utzon Center would provide wider facilities for our architecture and design education; together with the wider professional community and general public; as Denmark’s first regional architecture centre in collaboration with DAC, a home for then functioning Arkitektur Forum organisation in Aalborg and a venue of architectural exhibitions, presentations and public debate. This is the vision and programme, your father, together with Kim’s office, was so enthusiastic about and designed a building so uniquely according to.

If the Utzon Center is to continue to maintain and develop upon the integrity of your father’s vision, then there needs first and foremost to be maintained a focus at the Utzon Center on the promotion of an understanding of your father’s work and archives, through research and study facilities, access to the Utzon Archives, well researched, factually correct and professionally-made Utzon exhibitions that are accessible for an international public and visiting foreign architecture students. Also, as equally important; as it was the reason your father was so enthusiastic about being involved in the project; Spidsgatterhallen together with the Model Workshop, should both be actively used as workshop spaces, as was the original intention. Our students lack workshop space and activity in Spidsgatterhallen, particularly if it is connected with building new Spidsgatter boats as intended, would make the Utzon Center a much more interesting and dynamic place to visit.

– Adrian Carter


“In 2003 my father was contacted by Adrian Carter … who had the idea that there should be a center for architecture in Aalborg based on my father’s work and carrying his name – The Utzon Center… My parents had just moved back to Denmark again and father was 85 at the time we started discussing what such a center for architecture should contain and how best to guide students of architecture into this fascinating and important side of human endeavor – our physical surroundings.
My father’s idea was that his upbringing in Aalborg with a father who was director of the shipyard there and his own connection to the sea and boats could be expressed in the Center by having a small sailing boat designed by my grandfather as part of the exhibition, together with a workshop where experienced craftsmen could guide students to construct their own ideas. A series of exhibition spaces could show different architecture and architecture related exhibitions, and there should be a library and study space for students and professionals alike. The Center should also contain a lecture hall and a restaurant.”
– Kim Utzon

2018 & beyond

  • There will be enormous international interest in your father’s work in 2018, due to the 100th Anniversary of his birth. An interest that, as with Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, Alvar Aalto, will continue to grow enormously, particularly after 2018. The Utzon Center needs to be working together with the Utzon Research Center toward this and actively involved, in developing high quality exhibitions both in Aalborg and internationally, as well as events and publications. It will be a remarkable opportunity to create more international awareness of Aalborg and also Danish Architecture.
  • In the build-up to 2018 it would be an intelligent approach to make a series of separately themed Utzon exhibitions, that could be combined in 2018, as a major Utzon exhibition in Aalborg and that could potentially travel to or be recreated in Sydney, Palma de Mallorca, as well as major architectural exhibition venues around the world.
  • By 2018 there must be a professional, well-developed, thoroughly researched and factually correct, state of the art multi-media Utzon exhibition established at the Utzon Center, which could also provide the basis for other exhibitions internationally.
  • It would be obvious to involve the Utzon Research Center and the Jørn Utzon Research Network (JURN), which now has so much experience, expertise and so many connections with regards planning and organising the Utzon International Symposiums, Utzon Summer Schools and Workshops, as well as Utzon exhibitions and publications.

Spidsgatter Hallen

  • The aim should be use Spidsgatterhallen, as your father envisioned, as a dynamic boatyard-like environment for the building of new Spidsgatter boats (so a younger generation can learn skills from older boat builders) and as intended a creative workshop for the making of new and experimental ideas, at full size.
  • In addition ideally to the building of Spidsgatter, there should at least be (as Thomas Arvid Jaeger has wanted to be able to make from the beginning) a comprehensive, well-illustrated exhibition about your grandfather’s boat designs in both Danish and English.

Utzon Archives and Utzon Research Center

  • The Utzon Archives are the heart and soul of the Utzon Center, the very reason for its building. If the Utzon Archives cannot eventually be stored, as intended in the Utzon Center, then well curated exhibitions using the archive material should be on display always, together with models, multi-media presentations and access to the scanned material.
  • The Utzon Research Center should be maintained and developed within the building, to provide resources for the International and also hopefully Aalborg University Utzon PhD’s, academics, architects, students and general public visiting the centre.
  • The Utzon Research Center should be more involved in Utzon related exhibitions, to ensure that they architecturally well designed, factually correct, informative and also of interest to an international architect audience, as well as a more general local public.
  • The Utzon Research Center is currently involved together with the Dept. of Media Technology, Aalborg University and the Alexandra Institute in Aarhus, in developing an interactive multi-media presentation of the Utzon Archives, which will provide an engaging, exciting and educational means of interacting and understanding your father’s work; bringing built works and unrealised projects to life, including the first Silkeborg Art Museum and the interiors of the Opera House, explaining the sources of inspiration, the design intentions, the construction and making of the buildings. This permanent, but moveable, interactive Utzon exhibition should be located in the Utzon Research / Library space and be developed further for a major exhibition at the Utzon Center and travelling exhibitions in 2018.
  • Since the Architecture & Design library has been moved out of the Utzon Center, it has now been agreed between the Utzon Research Center and Aalborg University Library, that they will provide a selection of books on Jørn Utzon and related topics, that will be available for both Utzon scholars and the general public to read in the Utzon Library and exhibition space. The agreement is that this Utzon Library will continue to be developed over time.


  • The main focus of exhibitions at the Utzon Center should be Utzon or architecture related. To establish and maintain an international reputation for the Utzon Center, the architectural exhibitions should be of high standard, presenting the work of Jørn Utzon and those that similarly have a humane, tectonic and poetic approach to architecture, within Nordic and International architecture. Together with for example exhibitions of vernacular architecture from around the world and design inspiration in nature, of the kind that provided inspiration to your father. Originally I made plans for exhibitions by other Pritzker Award winning architects, including Sverre Fehn and Glenn Murcutt, as well as an exhibition of the Mies van der Rohe European Architecture Award winning projects, but as you know those plans were cancelled.
  • There should also according to your father’s vision be exhibitions of art, including naturally drawing, painting, photography (I was very disappointed that plans for a Keld Helmer-Petersen exhibition were stopped), sculpture, multi-media and spatial installations. Though again it would be most appropriate that the Utzon Center became known for focusing on certain Utzon related themes in the arts, such as: light, materiality, structure, space, nature, the Nordic and influences from other cultures.
  • In the spirit of your father’s many travels to gain inspiration; it was the intention in the beginning that the world and its inspiration would come to the Utzon Center by means of exhibitions about different cultures; such as early exhibition we presented of architecture students.
  • Exhibitions should be made with more than local audience in mind, but nevertheless be of a high professional standard and be accessible to an international audience, many of whom have come a long way with a particular interest in Jørn Utzon, Aage Utzon and visiting the Utzon Center because of architectural interest.
  • The most cost-effective way to have high quality exhibitions is to borrow them ready-made or make them in collaboration with others, to share the costs and to ensure a professional standard. I previously established very good working relationships and collaborations with the Danish Architecture Center, the Finnish Architecture Museum, The Norwegian Architecture Museum, the Australian Architecture Foundation, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, the Mies Van Der Rohe Foundation in Barcelona, the Serpentine Gallery in London and naturally the then Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, now Kunsten. It was from all of these that the Utzon Center has previously borrowed, was planning to borrow or was discussing making travelling exhibitions in joint collaboration. Now there are only connections with Kunsten and DAC, all the international collaborations have ceased which it a great pity for the international reputation and possibilities for the Utzon Center.

Architecture & Design, Aalborg University

  • It was your father’s vision, that the building, the facilities and activities within it would inspire a coming generation of architects, designers and artists. It is therefore a fundamental intention of the Utzon Center that it should be used actively by young people; to inspire school children to be more creative, provide facilities for the students in architecture and design, as well as within art and media technology and most importantly provide a base for creative individuals in the wider community, so that they choose to stay in the region.
  • Though a new building is soon to be ready for Aalborg University for Architecture, Design and Media Technology, close to the Utzon Center on the harbour, we can see that it already will be too small for the numbers of students we expect in the coming years. It would seem obvious that our architecture and design education used more of the building, during the teaching semesters and that the expensive major exhibitions were during the summer months, when there are most visitors to Aalborg. If the building, particularly the workshops and exhibition spaces was actively used by students, it would still be exciting to visit the Utzon Center and perhaps more so, during the rest of the year.

Regional Architecture Centre

  • The Utzon Center should be first and foremost the world class centre for the appreciation and study of your father’s work at an international level and at a national level, a major Regional Architecture Center in North Jutland.
  • Already while the programme for the Utzon Center was being developed, conversations were had with Danish Architecture Center and the local Arkitektur Forum, then later with RealDania about the Utzon Center being like Gammel Dok; as the first regional Architecture Center in Denmark (to be followed by Aarhus and Odense. Holland has many more such local architecture centres). Since DAC is committed to providing more services throughout Denmark regionally, it would seem obvious to discuss with them and also Realdania again about such a possibility.
  • Northern Jutland, the local architectural profession and our students particularly would benefit from the establishment of the Utzon Center, as also a Regional Architecture Center. It would also ensure the quality of architectural exhibitions, raise the level of the profession locally and promote architectural education, also to school children.

– Adrian Carter

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