Ambassador, Jan Utzon
Jan Utzon is a Danish architect. The son of Jørn Utzon, with whom he worked closely on several prestigious projects, has completed a number of fine works of his own.
Born on 27 September 1944 in Stockholm, Utzon was brought up first at Hellebæk near Helsingør until the family moved to Australia in 1957. He studied at the School of Architecture in Sydney (1964–66) and at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen (1966–1970). Deeply influenced by his father's approach to architecture, Jan Utzon soon began to collaborate with him taking on key supervisory tasks in major projects such as the Kuwait National Assembly Building.
In many cases, it is difficult to estimate to division of responsibility in projects undertaken by Utzon Associates where Jan worked both with his father and his brother Kim. These include the Paustian House in Copenhagen and the Skagen Odde Nature Centre in the north of Jutland.
Jan also set up his own design office on Funen where he authored many interesting projects. One of his most successful is the Performing Arts Centre in Esbjerg (1997) with its theatre and concert hall combined with the earlier art museum. Its large communal foyer catering both to the concert hall and the museum is particularly appealing and was achieved on a modest budget. Utzon Architects and Johnson Pilton Walker, Architects in collaboration, have explored options to improve the existing Opera Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.
Utzon has also been active in the developing countries. Working for the Tvind concern, he built the Shamva, Zimbabwe, headquarters for the Humana People to People organisation, as well as a large training and conference centre at San Juan de las Pulgas near Ensenada in Mexico's Baja California (2008).
"For a considerable part of my life I was blissfully unaware of the existence of the disease known as macular degeneration. When my grandfather, naval engineer and yacht designer Aage Utzon, gradually lost his sight in the late 1960s, it was accepted as something that could be expected when you grew older.
"Not until my father, Jørn Utzon, began to experience the same symptoms at the turn of the millennium, did the term macular degeneration appear in the vocabularly of our family.
"Wet macular degeneration was the verdict. His vision steadily declined over the years until his passing in 2008. My father was able to keep working on projects up until the end of his life.
"As he and I had been working together for almost 40 years, we had developed an architectural rapport as it were, where his ideas and directives, through my hands, could produce the documents and drawings needed for the refurbishment of the Sydney Opera House. Because of his analytical approach to his own condition, the rest of the members of our family became acutely aware of the trauma that macular degeneration can have on a person's life. As you can imagine, I have become very aware of macular degeneration, and must accept that I have a hereditary risk of being afflicted with the disease.
"Witnessing my father's sight deteriorate from macular degeneration was heartbreakling. I can only urge everyone to have their macula checked and very importantly, urge our society to make a greater effort to find a cure for this disease, which unnecessarily disables many of our citizens, individuals who, if they could retain their eyesight, with their skills and knowledge, could be of great benefit to our society."