Meet the young Danish architect duo, Søren Johansen and Sebastian Skovsted, who together form Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter. They here talk about their extolled colleague Jørn Utzon (b. 1918-d.2008), whose architecture they feel reflects something existential: “It’s admirable that it’s not just about the location in relation to its surroundings, but also the location in a larger context. We’re on Earth underneath the sun, the moon and the stars.”
Johansen and Skovsted argue that Utzon’s love of primordial destinations and travelling ensured that he didn’t have a Eurocentric view on architecture. Also, he learned a lot about people’s universal need to place themselves in a certain relation to the landscape, which is reflected in the way his buildings recurrently are in relation to the horizon. Utzon studied Chinese pagodas, Egyptian pyramids and Indian temples as well as anonymous, basic necessary structures, “architecture without architects”, such as mills. Moreover, this understanding of people meant that he was a Danish architect when building in Denmark, and an Iranian architect when building in Iran. An example of this being his way of using light when building the Melli bank in Teheran, Iran and when building the Fredensborg Houses in Fredensborg, Denmark.
On one hand, Johansen and Skovsted argue, Utzon worked with details, and on the other side, he had these great ideas about what it means to be a human being in the world – and these two sides complement each other: “That’s what makes him an artist per se.” His way of being a human being in the world permeates his buildings, and they feel that even if he hadn’t won the commission for the Sydney Opera House in Australia, he has an impressive range of buildings, such as Can Lis on Mallorca, Spain, and Bagsværd Church in Denmark, and would still be an extremely important architect. There’s something related to being human, something existential, in all of Utzon’s buildings, and e.g. Can Lis reflects this.
Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter is founded by the two Danish architects Søren Johansen and Sebastian Skovsted. The office seeks to bridge the gap between contemporary building processes and materials, and basic architectural values, through a synthesis of ideas, techniques and manufacturing methods. Among their projects are Skjern River Pump Stations in Skjern, Denmark and a unique series of projects for The Danish Nature Agency on the Ringkøbing Fjord in Tipperne, Denmark, including an observation tower, a bird sanctuary, a workshop, and a renovation of a former house to a research and exhibition space. Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter has received prestigious awards including The Crown Prince Couple’s Stardust Award 2016 and The Bisballe Foundation Honorary Award 2015. Moreover, they were shortlisted for the Mies Van Der Rohe Award: EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture, 2017.