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THE COURTYARD HOUSES

EDITED BY MOGENS PRIP-BUUS / EDITION BLØNDAL 2004


CONTENTS

PREFACE: OLE SCHULTZ 6 INTRODUCTION: MOGENS PRIP-BUUS 9 THE INNER ESSENCE OF ARCHITECTURE: JØRN UTZON 11 BEGINNINGS 12 HOUSES FOR SKÅNE 14 BJUV AND LUND 30 THE KINGO HOUSES 33 TERRASSERNE / THE FREDENSBORG HOUSES 65 SELECTED DRAWINGS, TERRASSERNE 106 ESPANSIVA – A BUILDING SYSTEM 167


PREFACE In contrast to the letters used in our alphabet, Chinese and Japanese written characters are expressions for symbols, concepts and shapes. Several characters placed beside each other form a sequence that the reader can transform into a message or a meaning. In exactly the same way, a courtyard house can be understood as a concept or a type of house that can be incorporated into countless contexts symbolising order and meaning. And suddenly you have a mental picture of the Roman atrium house, the Chinese courtyard town house, the Japanese atrium house, the Spanish patio or the Minoan palaces of Crete. The train of thought takes one on to the urban scale with the Mexican pueblo, the Arab casbah and the Mediterranean city. The theme of linking houses together emerges and is a story in itself with both cultural and social aspects. And suddenly, history or architecture knocks on the door, with its courtyard house icons and classical sources of inspiration. Looking back, it is food for thought that, even from the middle of the 1940s, Jørn Utzon began working on the courtyard house as an archetype that could set free several strata of architecture’s mechanisms. He tried here to work with architecture as a humane framework around people’s lives and their means of fulfilling themselves – and at the same time bringing in the landscape, nature and commonalty as other necessary sets of values. There were numerous sources of inspiration – from the village in the open countryside to the tightly packed courtyard environments of the provincial town. And there was inspiration from other cultures. But there is more at stake. Looking back, we must try to imagine how, as nomads, the first human beings sought shelter for the night against a cliff face, on a rocky ledge or in a cave with a fire, and with a view across a valley with a life-giving stream. This is in brief the story of human habitation and mankind’s relationship to nature. The book’s theses also touch on the three scales to which architecture relates – the building, the town and the open landscape. In architecture, they also talk of the location as an essential starting point for being able to introduce new values. Or perhaps actually of dramatising the place and in a new version giving it an idyllic quality. The book’s three accounts of the Skåne Houses and the Kingo Houses, the Fredensborg Houses and the Espansiva building system touch on all these fundamental themes and sources of inspiration. At a time when we talk more than ever of architectonic quality, we have here three ideal examples that focus on a composition with an easily appreciated totality that respects both location and nature. In reality, it is but a small distance from the Etruscans’ first settlements of courtyard houses on the seven hills in the Pontine marshes to the living order and growth of the Espansiva System. Ole Schultz

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Jørn Utzon 1958

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INTRODUCTION I lived in a “Roman House” from October 1959 until my departure for Sydney in December 1962, selling the house on my return from there in 1966. I have subsequently lived in many other places, including residential districts in America which, with their free-standing houses and no marked boundaries between plots, give the impression of a large neighbour-friendly common space, which in reality is very limited, as the possibilities for a private life are few. So it was with great delight I received Torsten Bløndal’s offer of collaboration on this book, which sets out to describe Jørn Utzon’s work with the courtyard house principle. It is perhaps necessary to explain why the book does not make a more detailed study of the courtyard house in a historical and cultural context. Those who have visited Jørn Utzon’s drawing office know that there were no brochures, catalogues or textbooks to be seen there apart from books such as the Swedish “BYGG”. There were no systematic patterns. There were no architectural periodicals. There were books of photographs from all over the world. Gunnar Asplund’s father was a surveyor. Arne Korsmo’s father was a botanist. And through his father, the hunter, sailor and marine engineer Åge Utzon, Jørn Utzon learned to observe and draw conclusions from what he saw. There are countless sources of inspiration. They might come from the vegetable kingdom or the mineral kingdom. From waves, cloud formations or changes in the light. From people’s behaviour in different situations. In many cases one can talk more of illustrations of Utzon’s thoughts rather than direct influences, as for instance the wave at Sydney (the auditoriums) or the snow on the mountains (the tile cladding). By identifying himself with people’s total relationship to their surroundings, Jørn Utzon has achieved this personal understanding, which he expresses in his architecture and in the title he attached to Richard Weston’s monograph: “INSPIRATION – VISION – ARCHITECTURE”. So it seems hazardous to emphasise the significance of specific individual influences. This method of working follows a Nordic tradition known from the Danes Tycho Brahe, Ole Rømer, Steno, H.C. Ørsted and the Swede Linnaeus, whose starting points are observation and experience instead of detailed theory,

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which they encounter with a certain scepticism. This manner of learning from Nature’s own book corresponds to Utzon’s interest in the culture of the East, and it is actually quite natural that the University of Sydney should have awarded him an honorary doctorate in philosophy. A book does not come of its own accord. As a publisher and with his enthusiasm for and understanding of Jørn Utzon’s personality and works, combined with a striving for perfection, Torsten Bløndal has created the basis for a collaboration that reminds me of my time with Jørn. That the publisher is at the same time a bloodhound and researcher, who can find photographs and drawings that everyone thought had been lost, is clearly shown in the book. I would like to thank the following, who have personally been of assistance during the preparations for this book: Per Godtfredsen, architect M.A.A., The Building Department, Helsingør, Poul Lund, architect M.A.A., The Building Department, Fredensborg-Humlebæk, Jørgen Jørgensen, architect M.A.A., Chairman of the Residents’ Committee, Roman Houses, Ole Holm, chairman of the Management Committee for the Fredensborg houses, the local historian, Cand.jur. Søren Widding, Fredensborg, Professor Jørn Palle Schmidt, landscape architect, Keld Helmer Petersen, photographer, Ole Schultz, Architect M.A.A., for his critical reading of the book and for his foreword. Professor Steen A.B. Høyer, Landscape Architect M.A.A, for redrawing of "The Green Plan". My old friends from Jørn Utzon’s drawing office: Helge Hjertholm for help with “The Green Plan”, Birger Schmidt for important notes concerning the projects, Jakob Kielland Brandt for help on the final chapter on “Espansiva”. But most of all you, Jørn, so enriched our lives. When you say Jørn, you also say Lis. THANK YOU, dear friends for your friendship throughout all these years. This book is yours. Mogens Prip-Buus Auribeau 27 January 2004


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THE INNERMOST BEING OF ARCHITECTURE We put everything in relation to ourselves. Our surroundings influence us through their relative size, light, shade, colour etc. Our condition depends entirely on whether we are in a city or out in the countryside, on whether the space in which we find ourselves is large or small. Our reactions to these circumstances are at first quite unconscious, and we only register them on memorable occasions, for instance in the sublime enjoyment of a detail or a happy alliance with the surroundings or by a pronounced feeling of distaste. But to elicit our unconscious reactions until they become conscious to us ought to be our starting point. By rehearsing our ability to grasp these differences and their effect on us, by being in contact with our surroundings, we find our way in to architecture’s innermost being. If we want further to enhance our grasp of architecture, we must understand that amidst all changes in circumstances, the architectonic expression is created in an alliance with the social structure. The true innermost being of architecture can be compared with that of nature’s seed, and something of the inevitability of nature’s principle of growth ought to be a fundamental concept in architecture. If we think of the seeds that turn into plants or trees, everything within the same genus would develop in the same way if the growth potentials were not so different and if each growth possessed within itself the ability to develop without compromise. On account of differing conditions, similar seeds turn into widely differing organisms. Our surroundings, the time in which we live, are quite different from what they ever were before, but the innermost being of architecture, the seed, is the same. The study of already existing architecture must consist in letting ourselves be spontaneously influenced by it and appreciating the ways in which solutions and details were dependent on the time at which they were created. For the architect to work in sovereign control of his means, he must experiment, practise in the manner of a musician playing his scales, practise with mass, with rhythms formed by masses grouped together by colour combinations, light and shade etc.; he must sense with fervent intensity and generally rehearse his shape-creating expertise.

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This requires close familiarity with materials: we have to be able to understand the structure of wood, the weight and the hardness of stone, the character of glass; we must become one with our materials and be able to fashion and use them in accordance with their constitution. If we understand the nature of the material, we have its potential close at hand and far more tangibly than if we base ourselves on mathematical formulae and art forms. To the architect, mathematics help him confirm that what he assumed was right. It demands a good healthy commonsense understanding of life. An understanding of walking, standing, sitting and lying comfortably, of enjoying the sun, the shade, the water on our bodies, the earth and all the less easily defined sense impressions. A desire for well-being must be fundamental to all architecture if we are to achieve harmony between the spaces we create and the activities to be undertaken in them. This is quite simple and reasonable. It requires an ability to create harmony from all the demands made by the undertaking, an ability to persuade them to grow together to form a new whole – as in nature; nature knows of no compromise, it accepts all difficulties, not as difficulties but merely as new factors which with no sign of conflict evolve into a whole. To understand all the inspiration present in every one of Man’s countless means of expression, to work on the basis of our hands, eyes, feet, stomachs, on the basis of our movements and not of statistical norms and rules created on the principle of what is most usual – this is the way forward to an architecture that is both varied and human. It is necessary to be in tune with the age and with the surroundings, to see inspiration in the task itself, if the requirements of that task are to be translated into an architectonic language creating a unity of all the different factors. At the same time the architect must have an ability to imagine and to create, an ability that is sometimes called fantasy, sometimes dreams. Jørn Utzon 1948


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BJUV AND LUND It was three years before before Utzon’s idea was taken up in Sweden. Two developments, each of 45 houses, were built in Bjuv and Lund respectively. Both were planned on the basis of Utzon’s ideas and principles, but by the firm of architects Erik and Henry Andersson of Helsingborg. One feels the lack of Utzon’s total participation in the final result. The residents are happy and would not dream of moving, but the way in which the plots are exploited does not create the street areas and common areas that are so convincingly natural and right in the Kingo houses and at Fredensborg. One lacks the effect of Utzon’s striving for perfection, irrespective of the task of convincing the authorities that it is possible to do things differently from hitherto. The use of windows, apart from those in the kitchen and bathroom, was shown in the perimeter walls facing the street in the competition project, but here they have a destructive effect relative to the definition of ‘private and common’. At Bjuv, a Danish landscape architect was afraid that the street areas would become too monotonous and decided that the two sides should be varied, one with yellow walls and red roofs, the other with red walls and yellow roofs. This conflicts with Utzon’s enthusiasm for Arab towns with: ‘the unity of village and landscape, brought about by their identical material – earth.’

Morocco. One of the villages south of the Atlas mountains Utzon visited in 1947

Despite these shortcomings, the developments are worth visiting, though preferably before seeing Kingo and Fredensborg, and when Utzon talks of these two communities, he stresses that it was fundamentally a group of teachers – same job – same income – same way of life, that formed the one at Lund.

Bjuv

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Lund


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THE KINGO HOUSES After winning the first prize in the ‘Skåne houses’, Utzon was asked to produce a model for the exhibition ‘H55’ at Helsingborg, while the house built there was the one that had been awarded second prize, a perfectly normal Swedish house. Utzon refused, and his Swedish colleague Erik Andersson was furious. They decided to try to find a place where the idea could be brought to fruition. Utzon recalls: "Then I went over to Helsingør, for in Denmark there was a law concerning government-subsidised housing, in which the condition for being allowed to move in was that your income should be no more than that of a workman or an architect; we had the same wages. You couldn’t have a senior supervisor, and so 35,000 DKK was what it could cost, and then you had to borrow a little, and then if you had two children you got a 90% loan at 2.2% interest, so it was a splendid law; that is to say we thought it would be fine for this area, because all the young architects, including myself, had for the last 3-4 years designed some single family houses with that system, and it was really wonderful for young architects; they could design houses and find customers because it didn’t cost anything; it was government-subsidised. Then I went up to the mayor after having found this site and after Keld Helmer Petersen and I had been round and photographed 10 – 15, perhaps rather 10 government-subsidised houses that were quite wrongly placed and looked dreadful. And then I explained to him that this was what was spoiling the area around Helsingør, and on top of the crowded town we needed something like a village somewhere or other out there, and that that lake was wonderful. He was very interested, and said that he thought there was some plan for building power lines across it.

Sketch for the general layout by Møgelvang and Utzon, in 1954, made just before Ib Møgelvang

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withdrew from the partnership


Then I had a talk to the municipal engineer, who was a friend of mine, and they agreed that it should be built, but on condition that I designed a complete plan of an ordinary housing area with the sizes of plots and houses, and then my own plan as I wanted it. After this, I was to build a show house, and then we’ll see how it goes, and if that is a success, we shall be allowed to develop it, and if it is a failure, then it is simply a detached house on that plot. Then we went to the Ministry of Housing, and they said they could accept this, but then there was something called KINGO, a housing association that had to participate, for they had a right to these cheap housing developments. They signed the documents, and then I got the builders working, a group of craftsmen that a solicitor called Berning used for building. He was to be the solicitor on the job, and then he said we’ll have a meeting with the workmen, and then I suggested that the workmen should build a show house, and this was financed by a government loan. It was not particularly expensive, and so they had to accept the price I had worked out according to the ‘red book’. They accepted that, provided they could work in dead time. Then we built the house. It was decorated by my daughter Lin, and Per Iversen lived there, and we sold 17 houses on the first day, a Sunday – and we went on from there."

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THE KINGO HOUSES, OPEN AREAS – ACCORDING TO THE WISHES OF JØRN UTZON

The open areas were planned to be planted as natural areas of grass, plants, shrubs and trees. The distribution of the various plants etc. was to ensure areas free both for play and for relaxing on sun-drenched surfaces or in the shade of overhanging treetops. After building was complete, the open undulating area of soil was harrowed several times to produce a quality of soil suitable for sowing seeds. Grass field seeds of different kinds and species such as are used for areas subject to continuous grazing were sown in the agricultural manner. Areas for bushes and trees were partly retained free from grassing, and tree seeds were broadcast according to a predetermined pattern. The trees and shrubs thus sown were then left to fend for themselves and fight their way up through plants and grass. A great many have been lost, but as the selected trees and shrubs were those that are known often to sow themselves in hedges and at the edges of woods, there was good reason to assume that a sufficiently clear impression of what had been sown would develop. And that is generally speaking what has happened. The luxuriant growth has year after year meant the need for suitable felling to be undertaken.

The trees and shrubs grown from seeds comprised: Grey Willow (Salix cineria), Goat Willow (Salix capria) and Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa) at points around the lake in the open area. Patches of Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Common Oak (Quercus robur), Crab Apple (Malus baccata), Bullace (Prunus), Wild Cherry (Prunus avium), Bird Cherry (Prunus padus), Hornbeam (Carpinus petulus), Sweetbriar (Rosa eglanteria). Other patches of Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Lilac (Syringa vulgaris), Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus), and yet others of Silver Birch (Betula pendula), Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa), Yew (Taxus baccata) and Alder Dogwood (Alnus grangala). Jørn Palle Schmidt

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When all the houses are occupied, there will be a meeting at which there will be the opportunity to discuss the regulations which at that time will be proposed by Mr Berning, the high court solicitor, and myself, along with possible suggestions on the part of the owners. I will ask the residents when they discover irritating minor faults to understand how fortunate they have been in obtaining such a large and good house – try to compare the sizes of houses that are being offered for the same sum in similar group developments. I am delighted with all independent initiatives inside the courtyards, and the architects participating in the work are pleased every time a new family moves in. We, for our part, will feel it a relief when all the houses are finished and plants have started growing up around them – and the little community we have dreamt of has become reality." Hellebæk, 30.6.1959 JØRN UTZON It is worth pointing out that the conventional three-story blocks of flats to the north of the development were built during the same year and at the same price. See p. 32-34.

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LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE When the first residents moved in, the common area was a large expanse of bare ground. The houses were fitted in to the natural lie of the land, but in the north-western corner Utzon nevertheless had some of the earth moved so that these houses could have a glimpse of the lake. Utzon wanted the development to have the quality of a village in a natural Danish landscape. The architect Birger Schmidt, who worked in Utzon’s drawing office, recalls: "JU’s idea was originally that Scots Pine should be planted along the tall perimeter walls of the houses, and that these should subsequently be pollarded and stand high above the houses with bare red trunks. The plantation was to be typical Danish nature, but tended like a golf course in the woods. (Helsingør Golf Course near JU’s private home has always been a much-loved walk for him!) According to JU, paths and play areas were to be cut short like a green, the walking areas like a fairway – and the rest to be left as rough, untamed and with flowers." Once the courtyard walls had been paid for, there was within the Ministry of Housing framework only a very limited amount available with which to establish a common area. According to Ebbe Langgaard, it was necessary to reject a proposal from a landscape gardener amounting to 19,000 DKK per hectare. (The total area is some 6.2 hectares.) The landscape architect Jørn Palle Schmidt, who was later to help create the TERRACES at Fredensborg, persuaded the owner of the nearby ‘Christinehøj’ to plough and harrow the area, and managed to acquire grass seed through the office of the Danish Institute of Forest Seeds at a very reasonable price. As a result, it was possible to keep the cost down to 120 DKK per hectare. Ebbe Langgard had connections with a forester at Jyderup, and ‘through him it was possible to obtain

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trees for planting for forestry directly from the Svebølle forest nursery – 1000 pine trees for 40 DKK altogether, and oak trees for 40 øre each minus 20%.’ These trees, measuring about 40 centimetres high, were planted by the residents under the guidance of Utzon, with the help of the drawing office architects living in the houses. This was the start of the unique collaboration between architect and residents, which played a very large part in the great success of the undertaking and helped to create the sense of unity between the residents, who were soon nicknamed the ‘Romans’ on account of the unfamiliar courtyard form of their houses . Over the years, Utzon’s ideas have been continued and developed in this way, and if the ‘Roman Houses’ today are studied by architects and landscape architects from all over the world, it may be that sociologists should also be brought in so as to gain a greater insight into why they have been of such great significance for the Danish Building Research Institute concept of ‘DENSE LOW’ housing. And this irrespective of the fact that the finance was not available for creating, for instance, communal buildings. In April 1962, the Green Committee of the owners’ association of the ‘Roman Houses’, consisting of the architect Helge Hjertholm from Utzon’s drawing office and V. Leif Sørensen, followed Utzon’s directions in working out ‘The Green Plan’. This described and laid down the scheme for planting, and still forms the basis for the residents’ intensive work. On this, the Chairman of the Residents’ Association, the architect Jørgen Jørgensen, has the following to say:

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"It is incredible that it has been possible to retain the appearance of virgin nature over all the years from the first period with wild flowers and grasses and tiny trees to today, when the trees have grown big and the vegetation dense. And it is incredible that the planting and subsequent maintenance have been the work of amateurs with a minimum of advice. On several occasions, the houses were indeed on the


Drawing by Jørgen Jørgensen of houses and trees, 2004. 1: present situation, 2: consequence, 3: actions, 4: aims.

point of disappearing in the growth of trees because the trees were planted far too close together, and extensive thinning and replanting have been necessary. A nature area such as the ‘Roman Houses’ really requires a great deal of attention, and decisions have to be made regarding each tree. At the moment, some 20 tons of biomass are removed each year in the attempt to maintain the diversity and balance between the plants. The work continues to be directed by a ‘Green Committee’, and it is undertaken by the residents, using professional assistance in felling trees and the annual cutting of the grass. Other committees have been established in the course of time. A ‘Lake Committee’ was among the first, and a ‘Building Committee’ advises and negotiates with the authorities regarding the current preservation orders on the individually owned properties. In time, this organisation has led to the c. 60 ‘Roman Houses’ being represented by some 20 residents in various committees and a co-ordinating management committee elected at an annual general meeting. In addition, everyone according to their own wishes and abilities participates in three annual working weekends and meetings and festivities." The intimate, village character of the development is underlined by Utzon’s original treatment of the lighting for the approach roads. Apart from those adopted by the local authority, the roads are lit only by downwards-directed lamps in the ceilings of the niches for entrance doors and altogether seven ‘Herning lamps’ (a type of wall lamp) placed in strategic positions. As Utzon explained: ‘It must be possible to see the moon and the stars’. The ‘Roman Houses’ were placed under preservation orders covering the buildings on 30 January 1987 and covering the common area on 8 May 1987. This has provided a tax reduction for the residents, who are now subject to supervision on the part of National Forest and Landscape Agency. A detailed account with drawings concerning repairs and alterations was prepared by the architects Ruth and Søren Lundqvist in October 1991. 62

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Furniture plan

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SELECTED DRAWINGS

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Jørn Utzon Logbook Vol. I:The Courtyard Houses  

Editorial board: Jørn Utzon (editor in chief) assistant editors Richard Weston, professor at School of Architecture, Cardiff, University of...

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