How was the book born? When did you start to realize that this research needed a publication?
Angela: This book is born from two different elective courses: a History and Theory course developed by me and Troels at the Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark in January 2018 and the course Detailing and Sustainability in Scandinavian Architecture that I have been teaching at DIS Copenhagen since Spring 2016. I and Troels were in fact asked to teach together for this one-month-long workshop at the Aarhus School of Architecture and while we barely knew each other we tried to bridge our own common interests, since we were both interested in the import to and export of Danish Architecture. On one side, the scope of what was at that time my Ph.D. research was to investigate Danish professionalism and to look at the intersections between two fields architecture&labor and architecture&welfare state and how the modes of architectural production have been developed during the Trente Glorieuses and today in Neoliberalism. On the other hand, I was already using Jørn Utzon at DIS to explore with students both detail drawings and axonometry. So, when I started to collaborate with Troels, I had already a good bunch of drawings from my students at DIS to put on the table…
Troels: Exactly, and then I saw a possibility for how to get involved! Since 2004 I have been interested in architecture from the Middle East and North Africa, and here I am not the first Danish architect to be interested in these regions of the world leading me to study how Danish architects have both learned from these areas – imported, but also exported architecture with all the commercial aspects that this involves. In fact, there is an interesting tradition of Danish architects forming abroad, and not only in the Middle East and North Africa, and here Utzon is a prominent figure in this import to and export of Danish architecture. Utzon traveled to foreign countries for acquiring inspiration for architecture however this collection of knowledge was highly personal and quite difficult to describe and define.
From seeing what Angela was doing together with her students, we started developing ideas for a history and theory course together, which also thereafter led to the publication of this book. The fact that Angela’s students in architecture were coming from universities in the USA also contributed to the idea of the theme of import and export of architecture.
You might say that this book is a selection of what Utzon left to Denmark and abroad but interpreted by Undergraduate architectural students.
How does the legacy of Utzon’s architecture influence contemporary architecture. Is there a difference between the influence on Danish and foreign architects?
A: Again, during my PhD I had the pleasure to interview several Danish practices, the interviewees mentioned how some names are almost untouchable, as the one of Jørn Utzon or Arne Jacobsen. What these two for instance have in common is that they “pushed” a lot of their practice outside the Danish borders. Of course, though we mainly think of them in a romantic way, thinking of these masters, we have to acknowledge how they worked for governments, embassies, universities, municipalities and so on, not only at home but also abroad, – and nothing would have been possible without a kind of political approval. And still today the call to export Danish architecture is tremendously high!
T: Moreover, one could say that Utzon, in his architecture abroad, was able to create a unique tension between relating specifically to a site and bringing his own distinct contribution to it. In this sense he has was capable of combining both local and foreign aspects at the same time. Something that one could identify as important to learn from for contemporary Danish architects.
Could you describe more precisely the collective production of your book?
A: This publication was a very important occasion for the students to be published in a book by being “cited”. “Citing workers” is something that should be normal but unfortunately it is not always practiced properly among academics and even less in practice.
This was a collective product because what was at stake was to rather decolonize a dominant idea of the architectural master as someone with a sense of superiority that hardly can be criticized. On the opposite students were asked to draw and create models that correspond to their own interpretations of architecture being developed by someone else.
It was an experiment, a very free approach that the students really appreciated. So, being more precise, all the drawings were made by students enrolled at DIS while all the models by students enrolled at AAA.
T: Finding alternatives to a way of teaching and education of the “old schools” of architecture, is a very important aspect. We don’t want to impose any positions and the students should develop their own critical perspectives and learn from what the course offer. We want to create a framework where students can grow as critical thinkers.
In the book there are fourteen projects, seven abroad and seven non-abroad. How did the selection start?
T: We started the selection of all Utzon’s projects of architecture based on existing literature to both consider his projects abroad and not abroad (within Denmark) because we were interested in projects of Utzon both in Denmark and not in Denmark. Also, we were interested in projects that had actually been realized and built because this meant that there would be a wide array of material and sources to study as both drawings, images, etc. The difficult part then was to sort the different projects into two equally large groups…
A: We wanted to include all the typologies that Utzon had built, which ranged from private to public architecture. We called the selection “Utzonia”, getting the inspiration from Calvino, and imagining a city entirely designed by Utzon that would contain all the functions. A very different place able to host all the stages of human life.
Last question is about the second part of the title. To/From Denmark with love. What is the inspiration or the meaning of the title?
A: There has been a strong rhetoric behind the cross-border architecture that involves love as a fundamental act. The act to give and offer own knowledge to other contexts is most often referred to as a generous act, though of course, the spectrum of involved considerations is much bigger and harsh (geopolitical, economic, colonial). We wanted to play with irony in the title and use the essays of the publication for diverse considerations on the topic.
T: Sure, also there is something positive connected to travels and to learning from the experience you are bringing home with you.
What Utzon left to the field of architecture is also the joy of traveling to learn, and this actually might be regarded as his biggest legacy.