With the cold weather closing in, cast your mind back to warmer times with Tim Morris’s article from The Architects’ Journal revisiting the Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon’s homes on Mallorca.
After resigning from the fractious Sydney Opera House project in 1966 Jørn Utzon visited Mallorca on his return from Australia and fell in love with the island. Over successive visits Utzon resolved to construct there, the home he had once intended to build in Australia.
Utzon asked a local farmer if he had any land for sale and eventually settled on a long, narrow plot, with a track to the front and a cliff to the Mediterranean Sea at the rear. Utzon’s genius was in responding to the topography of a site and he developed the concept for the home that would be named ‘Can Lis’ by placing sugar lumps on a plan of the site in five staggered blocks along the cliff edge. Each functional block is individually adjusted to the contours of the land, even to the trees on the plot, whilst Can Lis’ elevation to the road is simply an understated sandstone wall pierced by one high-level window and a boarded front door with the number 77 etched into it. Inside the front door is a blank wall with a crescent opening framing the Mediterranean beyond and recalling the original name of the road to Can Lis: Carrer Cala Media Luna – ‘Half-Moon Cove Road’.
Completed in 1971, Can Lis would be the first of two retirement homes Utzon built on Mallorca. As Utzon grew older the glaring surface of the sea became too much for his eyes, weakened by a lifetime studying drawings, and the number of sightseers knocking on the door at Can Lis became too intrusive. The Utzons decided to move further inland and design a second home, Can Feliz. Completed in 1994, Can Feliz used the same materials and followed the same principles as Can Lis but Utzon had by then learnt so much more about the local materials and how to use them. Utzon’s son Jan also recalls how his father loved working with the local craftsman ‘When he appeared at the building site with some bottles of wine, the craftsmen knew that he had had new ideas during the night and that some of the work already done would have to be changed’. Can Feliz took two and a half years to build and Utzon was on site every day to witness the construction of what he considered to be his masterpiece.
In 2003, Jørn Utzon received the Pritzker Prize, one of architecture's highest accolades. Now recognised for his genius and the brilliance of his work in Sydney, the road to Can Lis has been renamed Carrer Jørn Utzon in his honour, testament to the regard in which the Danish architect will always be held on the island of Mallorca.
Please click the link below to read a pdf of the full article published in The Architects’ Journal:
Jørn again, Tim Morris – The Architects’ Journal: 15.08.13