A Hertfordshire house designed by Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon has gone on sale for £3.5 million. The exposed pre-cast solid concrete beams run throughout the house which also features floor-to-ceiling windows. English Heritage’s description of the 4469 sq spacious house is “distinguished and beautifully-detailed”.
Dane Jørn Oberg Utzon (1918 – 2008) was one of the most notable architects of his time, probably best known for designing the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Also from Denmark, civil engineer Povl Ahm (1926 – 2005) actually acquired the plot of land in Hertfordshire for the house while working with Utzon on his designs for the Sydney Opera House.
Utzon drew up the conceptual plans, which were then developed by Ahm. Apparently Utzon was not aware of that the house had been completed until recent years. And he was absolutely delighted to see that Ahm had stay true to the original drawings and to see the finalised house.
Beyond the entrance hall on the ground floor is a library leading to further accommodation wing. This incorporates a fifth bedroom and an impressive master bedroom suite. The latter includes are large dressing room with bespoke wardrobes, a bathroom, sauna and the bedroom itself with double doors out onto the garden. The house truly is a celebration of the beauty of engineering.
Utzon was born in Copenhagen, the son of a naval architect. As a result of his family’s passion for art, from 1937 he attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where he studied under Kay Fisker and Steen Eiler Rasmussen. Following his graduation he worked with and met leading architects and designers around the world; he trained under Gunnar Asplund in Stockholm where he worked together with Arne Jacobsen and Poul Henningsen. He stayed with Alvar Aalto in Helsinki. He visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin West, in the Arizona desert and he met Charles and Ray Eames.
Utzon travelled all over Europe and also to Morocco where he was taken by the tall clay buildings. He travelled to the United States and Mexico, where the pyramids provided further inspiration. He commented that his time in Mexico was “One of the greatest architectural experiences in my life.”
In 1950 Utzon went home to Denmark where he build an open-plan house for himself in Copenhagen, the first of its kind in Denmark.
But the urge for more inspiration was still there and so he travelled first to China, Japan and India, before arriving in Australia in 1957 where he unexpectedly won the competition to design the Sydney Opera House. His submission was one of 233 designs from 32 countries, many of them from the most famous architects of the day.
Utzon had a distinct Nordic sense of concern for nature in his design. This developed into what Utzon referred to as Additive Architecture, comparing his approach to the growth patterns of nature. A design can grow like a tree, he explained: “If it grows naturally, the architecture will look after itself. In many ways, the Ahm House is a fine example of Additive Architecture.
The six-bedroom home has, described by Hugh Pearman in The Sunday Times as ‘probably the best modern house in the world’ compromises a living room with floor-to-ceiling glass panels overlooking the gardens, combined with concrete and timber detailing throughout the property. The house also includes a library, dining room and a garage.
According to estate agent The Modern House, the idea of the flow of space within the house, as well as ‘bringing the outside in’, has been ‘impressively realised’, enabled by aspects such as the tiled floor running from the interior to the exterior.
The 418m² property in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, designed in 1962 by Utzon for his friend Povl Ahm is Grade II-listed.