RECYCLINGS: JÖRN UTZON's 'Platforms and plateaus' about
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Two notes on Jörn Utzon, by Carles Muro
Orson Welles 1964.
Oscar Niemeyer, Palacio del Congreso, Brasilia.
When Jörn Utzon climbed the Mayan platforms of Uxmal and Chichen-Itza for the first time, he must have felt the same sensation that Cosimo Piovasco di Rondó did on that day, the 15th of June, 1767, when he climbed into a tree-top never to return to the earth.
Cosimo would travel from branch to branch and from tree to tree for the rest of his days. From up there, everything looked different. He had entered a new world, one parallel to the world in which he had lived until that day: the world of tree-tops. And he could never leave it, just as Jörn Utzon will never leave the world of platforms.
Cosimo from his tree-tops and Utzon from his platforms offer us visions which are as powerful as they are unexpected. Both entered a new plane, raising the horizon, thus conquering new points of view.
For Utzon, the essence of the Mayan temples is not their "architecture", their formal characteristics, but their ability to arouse an intense sensation: that of moving from the darkness of a close jungle to the light and unlimited space that one experiences on these platforms. Up there, the jungle roof is transformed into a thick sea of green leaves and the platform into an island.
An architecture of experience and the transformation of reality.
Those who like to stroll across the rooftops of those other forests that we call cities, might recreate something of this experience and witness similar transformations.
But, once on the platform, we discover yet another roof. That fleeting and changing roof, the clouds. It seems that for Utzon reality were made up of parallel worlds and helping to cross them is one of the architect's tasks. An architecture that attempts to materialize this stratified nature of the world.
An architecture thought, therefore, through the section. Many a project of Jörn Utzon is defined by two precise lines, two tense and fragile membranes: a horizontal plane above which hover masses of clouds, giant leaves or protecting wings. It is here that those examples used by Utzon in his writing would coincide with his own proposals.
Malaparte House, Capri.
In Utzon there are always two other parallel worlds. Parallel worlds that could perhaps strengthen that fragile Scandinavian genealogical tree that grows from Asplund to Utzon, inevitable including Aalto.
Alvar Aalto once explained how, when one faces a new project, one does so at two successive moments: he first carefully studies the details of the project: the requirements of the programme the characteristics of the site, the economic restraints.. and, then, he forgets it all and begins to draw, guided only by instinct, until he finds the key to the form.
He thus invokes two parallel worlds: one dealing with technical and functional issues, that operates within the discipline and is accessed through reason, and the other, more intuitive, that evokes and recalls memories and dreams, in a manner very close to that of some Surrealist methods, able to awaken images of buried experience.
Asplund, Aalto and Utzon share this way of making architecture. Not only in procedure, but also by using the same framework in which to lay those second moments, non deductive, of their work. It attempts to bring images of the exterior world to the interior of their buildings: Asplund's starry skies, Aalto's suns, woods and northern lights, and Utzon's clouds over the sea. Rooms without ceilings and covered exteriors. An architecture turned inside out.
[This writing was first published in Spanish in: CIRCO nº 33, Madrid, 1996]
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