Jørn Utzon. Visiting the Mallorca houses

Dec 29th 2009
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On december 2009 we visited one of the two houses that Jørn Utzon build for him and its family in Mallorca. In Porto Petro, located between pines and in front of the cliff, they are his summer house “Can Lis”, and that of his daughter Lin, “Can Lis” was designed by her husband Alex Popov. We study the Utzon house by drawings and pictures, with its volumes on terraces, dispersed between patios following the route of the sun, I read about the modulation and the proportions generated by the use of traditional stone of the island, but until this visit it had not understood it, the architecture is only explained with its use, and the experience to cross it, sit down there, listened the wind and the sea between the trees, caressing the texture of the stone, seeing play the shades and the light between the patios, those things can not be described. The videos that we showed here own the silence and the tranquillity of that wonderful place, they do not recreate all our experience but I hope that they serve for aproach it a little, and to understand the many qualities of the architectonic space when this it is thought to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants.

Jorn Utzon. Can Lis, Porto Petro from edicions espontaneas on Vimeo.

Jorn Utzon. Can Lin, Porto Petro from edicions espontaneas on Vimeo.

After having to abandon the construction of the Sidney Opera House in 1966, the Danish architect Jørn Utzon on his way home, made an intermediate stop at Mallorca. The island fascinated him to such a degree that he decided to build a summer house there. It was located facing the Mediterranean, on a cliff near a small fishing village and he gave it the name of his wife, Lis. In 1994, he felt obliged to move from his house, which had turned into a place of pilgrimage for architects. Utzon built another house, Can Feliz, also in Mallorca.Can Lis
Jørn Utzon had been affected, at the beginning of his career, when he learnt that the celebrated Swedish architect, Gunnar Asplund, had died of stress. On his death bed, Asplund asked his son whether all this effort had really been worth while. These words came back to Utzon years later when, after he had been nine years working on the design and building his winning project of the Sidney Opera House, he decided to resign from this job because he had not been shown professional respect by the Ministry of Public Works. Since then, Utzon has never returned to Australia to see his building finished.
Looking, in Porto Pietro, for an ideal refuge during his holidays, Utzon built Can Lis in 1972, set among myrtle and pine trees, with an extraordinary view to the sea. Integrating with the colours in the landscape, the main building material is a hard local limestone, called marés stone, which varies from gold to pink in colour. The original concept for the house was the same as for the one that Utzon had intended to build in Sidney; a sequence of pavilions linked by a wall, and arranged so as to respond to the various functions within the dwelling. He explained it with a story by Karen Blixen about African farmers where she said: “It was impossible for them to build their houses in a uniform row because they followed an order that was based on the position of the sun, the places of the trees and the natural mutual relationships of the buildings.” The orientation of the pavilions in Can Lis selects distinctive views of the Mediterranean, and consequently, the furniture became fixed, built on site and finished with shiny ceramic tiles. Additionally, as the window frames were mounted on the outside surface of the walls, they were made invisible from the interior, which again, stimulates the effect of light, blurring the limits between the dark interior of the house and the blistering Mediterranean sun. For all these reasons, family life follows a route as the day passes which seems to pursue the passage of the sun.

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Jørn Utzon. Visiting the Mallorca houses

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