Friday, 17 November 2006

Asger Jorn Art Museum Project - Jørn Utzon

A rather unusual project this one, by Jørn Utzon, the architect of the Sydney Opera House, for an art gallery for Danish 'painter' Asger Jorn (the inventor of 'three-sided soccer').

I say "unusual" because of the gallery's three stories, two of them are below ground. You can find out why and more about the project here and here. The picture at top shows the one above-ground storey, with just the tops of the three-level top-lit galleries peeking through, as Utzon said, like “crocuses big and beautiful in porcelain.”
The second photo above is a plaster model showing part of the internal spiral ramp system (very Guggenheim), just above a section through the buried building, and below a floor plan of the gallery level.
LINKS: Silkeborg Museum of Fine Arts - About: Architecture
Unbuilt project, Jørn Utzon, Silkeborg Art Museum extension - arcspace.Com



  1. One aesthetician has argued that an underground building could not be a work of architecture. I think this design shows him to be wrong.

    It is a great shame it was never built. It would have been perfect for Jorn's paintings.

  2. A great shame.

    I'm interested in the comment of your aesthetician, Paul. Do you know who it was? Pevsner perhaps?

    Seems to me they had a wrong conception of architecture, as if external expression rather than the treatment of space were the essence.

    (As it happens, I argue for the pre-eminence of space in this article here. Utzon's gallery would be a good example to add to this.)

  3. Stephen Davies (University of Auckland) argues in "Is Architecure Art?" in Philosophy and Architetecture (1994) that works of architecture are buildings. He decides that underground constructions are not buildings because they lack and exterior surface. However, his examples are undergound military installations and excavated homes. Perhaps he would allow the Asger Jorn project because of its ground storey. He does allow that distinctions are blurred.

    Scruton in The Aesthetics of Architecture dismisses spatial considerations and argues that architecture is primarily about surface decoration. I am unconvinced by his argument.

    My notion of what constitutes a building is broader than Davies' and I disagree with Scruton about surface decoration. In additon to valuing considerations of three-dimensional space in buildings, I would argue that surface decoration is concerned with two-dimensional space.

    I will read your essay.


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