The fourth international Utzon Symposium was held at the Sydney Opera House over the weekend.

The Symposium was developed within a collaborative partnership with the Faculty of the Built Environment, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, Australia. Initiated from meeting held with Professor Dean Alec Tzannes in 2012, the event was supported and underwritten by UNSW, drawing upon external and internally generated financial resources.

The Fourth Symposium lies within a heritage of Symposium events, the first two held in Denmark and organized under the auspices of the Utzon Research Center, the third, held in Morocco was a collaboration between JURN, the Utzon Research Center and l’Ecole Nationale d’Architecture of Rabat, Morocco.

Three Keynote speakers of international standing were identified to lead the event, the identification responsive to the Symposium theme and sub-themes. Of these, two were funded directly by UNSW, the third, cross-funded by the University of Tasmania, supporting a conjoined JURN Workshop to be held on Bruny Island, Tasmania, subsequent to the Symposium.

The Symposium began with a keynote presentation from Marc Holliday Associate Professor, Vishaan Chakrabarti, followed by a number of keynotes from around the world including Finnish Architect, Juhani Pallasmaa and Founder and Principle Architect of Jiakun Architects, Liu Jiakun.

The Symposium was designed as an open forum to encourage academic and praxis-based discourse around Utzon’s oeuvre with the objective of projecting the outputs towards contemporary and future academic endeavor and practice activity. For these reasons, the deliberately provocative Symposium Title of What would Utzon do now?’ was chosen. Of course, the title is openly speculative about the value of the Utzon legacy in a contemporary world. The objective of the nomenclature was to reconnect Utzon to modernity and beyond, set within the physical context of the site of his most significant and controversial contribution to Architecture.

Utzon is best known for his public architecture, most notably, the Sydney Opera House, as well as Bagsværd Church in Denmark, the Kuwait National Assembly and the Meli Bank in Tehran.

Architect and the Dean of UNSW’s Faculty of Built Environment, Professor Alec Tzannes says it is appropriate that the debate around Utzon should return to the location of his most significant yet controversial creation, 40 years after its completion.

“While the inspiration of his legacy is important, it is also critical to debate the role of cultural production in urban environments,” says Professor Tzannes.

Dr Paul Osmond, from UNSW’s Faculty of Built Environment, presented on the topic ‘How does the Sydney Opera House measure up in terms of sustainability?’ and says the Sydney Opera House is not only a stunning building, but also a strikingly sustainable one.

“That’s partly because Utzon built it to last – it’s got a projected life cycle of 250 years – but also because of its social and cultural benefits.”

In total, 48 Papers were presented across three days with Keynote Speakers and invited speakers of esteem, supporting the themes and sub-themes of the event. Presentations were grouped in cognate sets of three, with a 15-minute discussion period allocated for each grouping.

A diverse range of subject groupings were defined viz:

  • Practice (4 Papers)
  • Industry/Invited Speakers (General) (4 Presentations)
  • Architectural Theory (7 Papers)
  • Conservation (4 Papers)
  • Industry/Invited Speakers (Materials Technology) (7 Presentations)
  • Tectonics (6 Papers)
  • Landscape (I Paper)
  • Performance Design (2 Papers)
  • Sustainability (1 Paper)
  • Transcultural Influences (6 Papers)
  • Urbanism (3 Papers)
  • Industry Session (Wood Technology) (I Presentation)

Providing a diverse range of academic and praxis-based discourse drawing upon and expanding upon Utzon’s canon.

In addition, the Symposium pen-ultimate event comprised a panel discussion Chaired by Dean Alec Tzannes and comprising; Professor Ken Mahler, HASSELL Fellow, Dr. Ric Simes, Partner Deloitte Access Economics, Richard Leplastrier, Architect and AIA Gold Medallist, Adrian Carter, JURN Co-Director and Roger Tyrrell, JURN Co-Director.

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