Jørn Utzon Logbook Vol. V:
Additive Architecture

Editorial board: Jørn Utzon (editor in chief) assistant editors
Richard Weston, professor at School of Architecture, Cardiff, University of Wales and the editor.
Released: 2009
Features: 312 pages, full color, hardcover
Format: 20 x 30 cm
Language: English
ISBN: 87-91567-23-8

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Designpreis Deutschland 2011, Nominee
Deutsches Architektur Museum, Book Award 2010
Die schönsten deutschen Bücher 2009

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  • Read review in English

    Additive Architecture

    With “Jørn Utzon Logbook Vol. 5 / Additive Architecture” the publisher Torsten Bløndal has brought to a splendid conclusion the series of outstanding books which together encompass all the architectural achievements of Jørn Utzon. That the quality of these books is worthy of Utzon and that, conversely, Utzon’s achievements measure up to the ambitious scope of the books is beyond all doubt. So we can now take pleasure in the availability of a series of books placing before us Utzon’s genius in all its fantastic breadth. Whereas the first book, Utzon – Inspiration, Vision, Architecture, written by the English architect Richard Weston, provided us with an overall view of Utzon’s oeuvre, the first four books in the logbook series delve deeper into individual works such as the courtyard houses, Bagsværd Church, the Mallorca houses and the Assembly Building in Kuwait. The latest and last logbook, which has just appeared, differs from these in that it is concerned with a concept, or more correctly a method, that is to say the additive concept, which is perhaps Utzon’s most important motif.

    In this book, Utzon’s most trusted colleague, Mogens Prip-Buus, tells about a defining event in the drawing office in Sidney one sunny day in 1965. During a conversation with Utzon, Prip-Buus suddenly said something that Utzon asked him to repeat. The conversation had been about the difference between the British pyramidal social structure and the Danish, more equal form of society. Utzon leapt up from his chair and in large letters wrote on the wall “ADDITIVE ARCHITECTURE”, commenting that now they had broken through the sound barrier. For that is what it had been about all the time: additive architecture for an additive world, which in both natural and cultural forms was organised according to additive systems and hierarchies. Systems which, as Utzon saw them, were fundamentally architecture. That sunny day in Sidney in 1965, Utzon realised what his work was fundamentally about: adding and subtracting and ensuring that the transitions, like the growth principles in nature or the transitions in primitive societies between family, village and the surrounding world, were organically linked, not with erased or fused links, but with visible links that clearly spoke of differences, relations and distances.

    There are echoes of this preoccupation with systematics and connections far back in Utzon’s life. In this book, his friend Ole Schultz tells of a sketch that Utzon made as a boy on the inside of a porridge oat packet. The sketch was of a landscape from Vejlerne near the Lim Fjord with ditches and a row of fencing posts and with drifting clouds that clearly indicated the direction of the westerly wind. Beneath the sketch, the young Jørn had added a small calculation showing that 40 fencing posts corresponded to 200 metres. Thus, in the relationship between the dynamic of the clouds and the regular measuring of the landscape represented by the fencing posts, there already lay the seeds of the architect’s most important methodical tool. For to Utzon, the additive was not merely about repetition. The idea of identical prefabricated structure was far from him. The additive on the other hand was about relations and differences.

    Utzon was a man who observed. When he returned to the drawing office after his visit to China in 1958, he gave a lively account of how the Chinese did not use overcoats, but merely put on more or fewer layers of identical clothing according to the weather. He found the same principle confirmed in the Chinese temples, in which the stacked timber structures are fundamentally identical, but are increased or reduced in number according to the size of the temple. When he visited the food shops in his favourite town of Kyoto, he was at least as interested in the way in which the beans were piled up side by side, red, green, white, brown, as he was in the additive principles of construction as used in the Japanese architectural tradition. At home once more in everyday life, something as straightforward as the arrangement of a Danish lunch table, or a group of deer on the edge of a forest, or the goods wagons in a shunting yard or of the pebbles on the beach could confirm him in the belief that buildings ought to be organised more freely and not to be limited by identical box shapes divided by partition walls, as he writes in his splendid manifesto “Additive Architecture” from 1970. Whereas this little text formulates precisely what Utzon understands by additive architecture in an industrial context, his first manifesto from 1948, the English translation of which was given the poetical title of “The Innermost Being of Architecture”, was more fundamental.

    “Something of the naturalness found in the growth principle in nature ought to be a fundamental idea in works of architecture,” Utzon maintains in this essay. He goes on to write: “An urge to create well-being must be fundamental to all architecture if harmony is to be achieved between the rooms created and what is to be undertaken in them,” continuing with yet another metaphor taken from nature: “Nature knows no compromise. It accepts all difficulties, not as difficulties, but as new factors which without conflict grow into a whole.” Well, on the basis of our post-modern culture we might call this naive and idealised, but anyone who has been in the reception area in the Paustian building must be able to see the meaning in it. For here, Utzon has succeeded in catering for a very complex functional programme with a space that is exceptionally pleasant to spend time working in, and which has a both clear and basic architectonic expression that without visual noise reveals all constructions and installations. Cell by cell, element by element, the room rises with the same clarity as an Eastern temple or as the growth of a tree.

    According to Mogens Prip-Buus, if we understand these two manifestos by Utzon, then we understand his method. Shortly before his death, Utzon said the following to Prip-Buus: “You must promise me that this book will not be filled with all kinds of people saying all kinds of things.” That was to be his last will and testament. Short, precise texts and carefully selected pictures. No muddy analyses. And the illustrations are fantastic. Whether they are from Mali, Iceland, India, Japan, Morocco, Greece, the Sahara, Sweden, Nepal, Algeria, Isfahan or the Danish island of Funen, they all confirm Utzon’s additive principles. Utzon’s stroke of genius has in general been seeing and translating all these riches into an industrial architectural idiom, which, irrespective of where in the world it is placed, is naturally woven into the local context.

    It must be said that the editors have succeeded in imparting all this. This book is quite simply wonderful. It is a gift to every architect or otherwise interested personage who wants to get inside Jørn Utzon’s workshop and follow his incredible intuition.

    Mention must finally be made of the fact that all six books in the series have been created by editorial collaboration between Torsten Bløndal, Richard Weston and Jørn Utzon himself, who was throughout an active sparring partner until his death on 29 November last year.

    Although one might have wished for a logbook dedicated especially to the Sidney Opera House, Torsten Bløndal’s attitude has from the start been that the strength of the project lay in the close collaboration with Utzon and that its term must of necessity be limited by the time Utzon had to live. Fortunately, he lived to be 90. And he managed to put his stamp on the preparatory work for “Additive Architecture” so that this publication is marked by the reliability that is characteristic of the entire series.

    Thomas Bo Jensen

    Vol 111, no. 14, November 2009

  • Read review in Danish

    Additiv arkitektur

    Med “Jørn Utzon Logbook Vol. 5 / Additive Architecture” har forlægger Torsten Bløndal sat et smukt punktum for en stribe fremragende bøger, der samlet udfolder Jørn Utzons arkitektur. At kvaliteten af disse bøger er Utzon værdig og at Utzons bedrifter omvendt kan stå mål med bøgernes ambitiøse omfang, er hævet over enhver tvivl. Vi kan således nu glæde os over, at der foreligger en bogserie, der blotlægger Utzons geni i hele dets fantastiske bredde. Hvor den første bog Utzon – Inspiration, Vision, Architecture, skrevet af den engelske arkitekt Richard Weston, leverede et samlet overblik over Utzons produktion, så dykker logbog-seriens fire første udgivelser dybere ned i enkeltværker som gårdhavehusene, Bagsværd Kirke, Mallorca husene og Kuwaits regeringsbygning. Den seneste og sidste logbog, der netop er udgivet, adskiller sig her fra, ved at beskæftige sig med et begreb eller rettere en metode, nemlig det additive, som er Utzons vel nok vigtigste motiv.

    I bogen fortæller Utzons mest betroede medarbejder, Mogens Prip-Buus, om en skelsættende begivenhed på tegnestuen i Sidney en solskinsdag i 1965. Under en samtale med Utzon sagde Prip-Buus pludselig noget som Utzon bad ham gentage. Samtalen havde drejet sig om forskellen på en britisk, pyramidalsk samfundsstruktur og en dansk, mere sideordnet samfundsform, som de mente måtte hidrøre fra vikingetidens familie- og landsbytradition. Da Prip-Buus nu gentog ordet ’additiv’, som han havde brugt som billede på den danske samfundsform, sprang Utzon op af stolen og skrev med store bogstaver på væggen “ADDITIVE ARCHITECTURE”, hvortil han bemærkede, at nu havde de gennembrudt lydmuren. For det var jo det det hele tiden havde handlet om: Additiv arkitektur til en additiv verden, der både i natur- og kulturformer var organiseret i additive systemer og hierarkier. Systemer, som grundlæggende var arkitektur i Utzons øjne. Hin solskinsdag i Sidney i 1965 blev Utzon klar over hvad hans arbejde dybest set handlede om: At lægge til og trække fra og at sørge for at overgangene, ligesom naturens vækstprincipper eller primitive samfunds overgange mellem familie, landsby og omverden var organisk forbundne, ikke med udviskede, sammensmeltede, men med synlige led der tydeligt fortalte om forskelle, relationer og afstande.

    Denne optagethed af systematik og forbundethed giver genklang langt tilbage i Utzons liv. I bogen beretter vennen Ole Schultz om en skitse Utzon udførte som dreng på indersiden af en Solgryn havregrynspakke. Skitsen viste et landskab fra Vejlerne ved Limfjorden med grøfter og en stribe hegnspæle og med drivende skyer, der tydeligt indikerede vestenvindens retning. Under skitsen havde unge Jørn udført en lille beregning der viste, at 40 hegnspæle svarede til 200 meter. I forholdet mellem skyernes dynamik og hegnspælenes taktfaste opmåling af landskabet, lå således allerede kimen til arkitektens vigtigste metodiske redskab. For Utzon handlede det additive nemlig ikke om ren gentagelse. Det ensdannede elementbyggeri lå ham fjernt. Det additive handlede derimod om relationer og forskelle.

    Utzon var en seer. Når han kom hjem til tegnestuen efter sit besøg i Kina i 1958 fortalte han levende om hvorledes kineserne ikke brugte overfrakker, men blot iførte sig flere eller færre lag af ens beklædningsgenstande, alt efter vejrliget. Samme princip fandt han bekræftet i det kinesiske tempel, hvis stablede tømmerkonstruktioner grundlæggede er ens, men formeres eller reduceres efter templets størrelse. Når han besøgte fødevarebutikkerne i hans ynglingsby Kyoto var han mindst ligeså optaget af den måde hvorpå bønnerne var stablet side om side, røde, grønne, hvide, brune, som han var af de additive konstruktionsprincipper i den traditionelle japanske byggeskik. Og hjemme igen i hverdagen kunne noget så selvfølgeligt som organiseringen af et dansk frokostbord, af en dyreflok i skovbrynet, af godsvognene på et baneterræn eller af småstenene på strandbredden bekræfte ham i, at bygninger burde organiseres friere og ikke begrænses af ensdannede kasseformer underdelt af skillevægge, som han skriver i sit fremragende manifest “Additive Architecture” fra 1970. Hvor denne lille tekst sætter præcise ord på hvad Utzon forstår ved additiv arkitektur i en industriel kontekst, så er hans første manifest, “Arkitekturens Væsen” fra 1948, der i bogen er gengivet i en fin engelsk oversættelse med den poetiske titel “The innermost beeing of architecture”, mere grundlæggende.

    “Noget af den selvfølgelighed, der er i naturens vækstprincip, burde være en bærende idé i arkitekturarbejdet”, fastslår Utzon i dette skrift. “En velværetrang må ligge til grund for al arkitektur, hvis man skal nå harmoni mellem de rum, man danner, og det, man skal foretage sig i dem”, skriver han videre og fortsætter med endnu en naturmetafor: “Naturen kender ikke til kompromis, den accepterer alle vanskeligheder, ikke som vanskeligheder, men som ny faktorer, der uden konflikter vokser sig sammen til et hele”. Ja, så kan vi jo med vores postmoderne dannelse kalde det naivt og idealiseret, men enhver der har været i Paustians reception må kunne se meningen med det. For her er det lykkedes Utzon at besvare et meget komplekst funktionsprogram med et rum, det er særdeles behageligt at opholde sig og arbejde i, og som har et både tydeligt og råt arkitektonisk udtryk, der helt uden visuel støj blotlægger alle konstruktioner og installationer. Celle for celle, element for element stiger rummet til vejrs med samme klarhed som et østens tempel eller som træets vækst.

    Hvis man forstår disse Utzons to manifester, fortæller Mogens Prip-Buus mig, så forstår man hans metode. Kort før sin død sagde Utzon følgende til Prip-Buus: “Du må love mig at i den her bog må der ikke være alle mulige der siger alt muligt”. Det skulle være hans testamente. Korte præcise tekster og omhyggeligt udvalgte billeder. Ingen mudrede analyser. Og billedsiden er fantastisk. Om de er fra Mali, Island, Indien, Japan, Marokko, Grækenland, Sahara, Sverige, Nepal, Algeriet, Isfahan eller Fyn, så bekræfter de alle sammen Utzons additive principper. Utzons genistreg har i det hele taget været at se og oversætte al denne rigdom til et industrielt arkitektursprog, der uanset hvor i verden det er placeret, er selvfølgeligt indflettet i sin kontekst.

    Man må sige at det er lykkedes for redaktionen at få dette formidlet. Denne bog er ganske enkelt vidunderlig. Den er en gave til enhver arkitekt eller interesseret der ønsker at komme ind i Jørn Utzons værksted og følge hans utrolige intuition.

    Endelig skal det nævnes, at alle seks bøger i serien er blevet til i et redaktionelt samarbejde imellem Torsten Bløndal, Richard Weston og Jørn Utzon selv, som hele vejen igennem har været en aktiv sparringspartner indtil hans død 29. november i fjor. Selv om man havde kunnet ønske sig en logbog der tog særligt fat om Sidney operaen, så har det fra begyndelsen været forlægger Bløndals holdning, at projektets styrke lå i det tætte samarbejde med Utzon og at dets løbetid derfor nødvendigvis måtte være begrænset af hans levetid. Til alt held blev Utzon 90 år gammel. Og han nåede at præge forarbejdet til “Additive Architecture”, så også denne udgivelse er præget af den troværdighed, der er seriens adelsmærke.

    Thomas Bo Jensen

    Vol 111, nr. 14. November 2009

  • The Beauty of Rigour

    The Beauty of Rigour
    This is a great addition to the Utzon Logbook series and covers Utzon’s interest in systems – additive architecture. Systems clearly were a significant factor in Utzon’s work, from the way in which he solved the issue of the shells for the Sydney Opera house by taking sections of a sphere (apparently the Eureka moment arriving for Utzon as he tucked into an orange), through to his Espansiva housing system of self-build portal frames through to Utzon’s furniture systems. Utzon recognises the beauty in patterns and repetition, and this books is wonderfully illustrated throughout with inspirational images which wonderfully reinforce the point that nature operates as an additive system.

    Utzon recognised simultaneously the need to create interest, not just bland repetition, and so introduced variations which tessellate – what we may today think of in terms of fractal or polyominoes. As a craftsman and builder himself, the rigour that imbues Utzon’s architecture, stemming as it does from some form of underlying parameter or system means it will continue, in my mind, to outshine contemporary ‘organic architecture’ designed by a designer and then just given over to a structural engineer to solve the construction problems.

    This book is a perfect balance of large format photographs, hard line drawings and sketches, all reproduced on heavyweight paper and at a meaningful scale. As with the other books in the series by Edition Blondal, it exudes quality, and is one of those books you feel proud to have purchased, not only because it is beautiful, but because the ideas contained within it are lessons that you can keep coming back to as a designer. In an age of hubris, this is calm, sober, thoughtful designing – a breath of Scandinavian fresh air.

    JR Hartley

    Source: Amazon.co.uk
    26. November 2009

Intrigued by the parallels he saw between patterns of growth in nature and vernacular architectures, Jørn Utzon developed a succession of projects based on open-ended building systems. Christened ‘Additive Architecture’ in the office in Sydney, these ranged from the timber ‘Espansiva’ housing to a majestic precast concrete stadium complex in Saudi Arabia. In the first part of this book Utzon’s principal assistant Mogens Prip-Buus – who proposed the term ‘additive’ – introduces and presents a comprehensive documentation of a fascinating body of work that acquires new relevance in the age of digital production. This is followed by Utzon’s final thoughts on the additive principle, discussed in an extended interview with the publisher Torsten Bløndal, and a selection of superb photographs of the natural environments and buildings and settlements from which Utzon drew inspiration.

Richard Weston