Global Design – Three Generations of The Utzon Family

Buildings are, of course, rooted in a place, literally, but their architects are thankfully not. The designer of one of our more famous architectural icons, The Sydney Opera House, was a Dane and three generations on his grandson is giving his take on another Aussie icon - the barbeque. So who makes up this globe trotting, globally influential family?

  • Joern Utzon – grandfather and designer of The Sydney Opera House. Passed away in 2008.

  • Jan Utzon – father and also an architect

  • Jeppe Utzon – son, architect and designer

Some of the Utzon design principles which are carried on generation after generation are that functionality is supreme, always remain true to the material, and capture the spirit of the activity intended for the space in the design.

Growing up in a famous architecture family, Jeppe was always surrounded by design and progressive ideas, and so naturally studied architecture at university. Later he began work at his uncle’s firm (Kim Utzon Arkitekter) and as well as designing buildings and housing projects he has also designed an amazing futuristic barbecue for Electrolux.

Uncannily, the origins of the Jeppe Utzon BBQ began at the Sydney Opera House. In the year 2000, Joern Utzon was re-engaged as the architect for the Opera House and asked to work on some renovations. As Joern was living in Majorca at the time, his son Jan was also involved with this project. On one occasion Jan was unable to attend a function at the Opera House and his son Jeppe went in his place. Speaking with the Electrolux representatives at the function (a major sponsor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra) a professional relationship formed and Jeppe was commissioned to design a premium barbecue. This was the second time an Utzon was engaged to create something that was quintessentially Australian.

Jeppe worked with Swedish designer Lars Erikson in Sydney to perfect the barbecue design, and the results were simply stunning. Designed as a “premium product” the barbecue retailed in 2005 for $7,999.

Jeppe’s design possesses all the key elements of Utzon design. Everything about the barbecue is functional. When it is not in use as a barbecue it is a table or a bench. When it is in use as a barbecue the table top slides to the side - still holding the contents of the table. Jeppe has captured the spirit of the activity intended for the space in his design. The barbecue is in keeping with the beautiful contemporary surrounds of Sydney backyards during a friendly, relaxed barbecue style event (it doubles as a seat or table), thus enhancing the experience of the user. In terms of remaining true to the material, Jeppe chose premium grade materials, like Scotchbrite Stainless, essential for functionality and aesthetically pleasing. That the barbecue is a thing of design beauty is secondary to its functionality, in the same way the Opera House was designed with the function of the space at the forefront of Jorn’s design.

The elegant aesthetics of the Utzon’s work are a result of careful consideration of material and functionality and an acute awareness of enhancing the experience of the users. The “shells” of the Opera House were intended to capture the harmony and force of the activity inside, while the sleek lines in Jeppe’s barbecue are intended to capture the sophistication and relaxed atmosphere of contemporary Australian barbecue cooking.

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