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Heralding the architect

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Jorn Utzon's 80th birthday was celebrated in style by Sydney, home of his competition-winning Sydney Opera House (which Utzon has never officially visited following departure from the project after a row with city officials). The birthday prompted a special feature in the Sydney Morning Herald, which included tributes from Enric Miralles, Stephen Holl, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Arata Isozaki, Ron Arad, Richard Meier, Harry Seidler, Sir Denys Lasdun and several of Utzon's collaborators on the troubled project. Patrick Hodgkinson (who like Utzon worked for Aalto), summed up succinctly: 'To myself it (the opera house) lit up a beckoning path, having as much to do with civilisations of the distant past as with new concepts of structure and urban thinking simultaneously. It is life-giving. Throw away your copybooks; the generative idea came from within its architect's intuition. Utzon gave Sydney an image that every schoolkid the world over recognises. His masterwork helped immeasurably to break the false civilisation barrier Australia had formerly suffered. He should be saluted on his 80th birthday, as I have saluted him since 1957. Like Aldo van Eyck, that flying Dutchman who was 80 last month, he threw a ball in the air which a few of us caught in our own ways. There is gravitas.' Sydney obviously thinks so too - it has given Utzon the keys to the city.

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