A new exhibition at the Sydney Opera House is showcasing the work of Denmark’s creatives. But this isn't Danish design’s first trip down under. The iconic performance venue is celebrating its 40th birthday this year and a consortium of architects and designers is honoring the work of its mastermind, Jørn Utzon. In 1957, an entry by the then-little-known Danish architect bested those of more than 200 others in an international competition to design the structure. But the unprecedented complexity in its construction and ballooning project costs set the architect and local government officials at odds, resulting in Utzon’s departure from the commission in 1966, six years before it was completed. The story has since been woven into architect folklore though it was partially grounded in 2002 when the architect, with his architect son, resumed work on the project to complete interior restorations.
Now, amid the structure’s most recent round of renovations, the Danish Agency for Culture is teaming up with the Consulate General of Denmark in Sydney to promote Denmark’s cultural sector. On exhibit now through Nov. 24, “Danish at the Design House” is curated by Australian architect Gerard Reinmuth and Danish architect Karen Kjærsgaard and spotlights Utzon's aesthetic on a small scale. The exhibit is located in the six bay windows that shape the structure’s west foyer and is divided among six themes—materiality, craft, technology, human, pragmatism, and desire—which feature the work of six Danish architects and six Danish designers in Utzon-inspired installations that range in scope from technology to form.
A nod to Utzon’s principle of additive architecture, “Materiality” by Tomas Bo Jensen, Tomas Bo Jensen Architects, in Copenhagen, incorporates eight large bricks in steps that signal architectural components such as stairs and podiums.
A student project by the Center for Information Technology and Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, “Craft” features walls decorated with digitally fabricated perforations to remind visitors of architecture’s need to adapt to changing conditions.
Danish design is known for packaging everyday technology into streamlined ergonomic forms. “Technology,” by Copenhagen-based MAP Architects’ David Garcia, incorporates a pair of robotic arms that hold screens displaying two-minute videos of each one’s technical features.
“Human” by Johannes Pedersen and Morten Rask Gregersen, Nord Architects, in Copenhagen, identifies Utzon’s incorporation of natural elements to meet individuals’ survival needs.
Utzon was known for his use of basic materials to create complex constructions. “Pragmatism” by Claus Pryds, Claus Pryds Architects, in Copenhagen, features three lengths of plywood designed to frame the enclosure with undulating walls.
In “Desire,” Mette Wienberg, Mette Wienberg Architects, in Aarhus, Denmark, shapes a dark enclosure with curved forms to recast the meaning of private spaces and abstract the function of related objects such as negligée, furniture, and luminaries.
Image courtesy Flickr user Brian Giesen, via a Creative Commons license