Reflections: To the manner (stub)born
It doesn’t matter how many times I walk past it, the Sydney Opera House always puts a smile on my face. Being a bit a design tragic, I’m spoilt by having easy access to the Sydney Opera House, with thanks going to the vision and ultimately stubbornness of Jørn Utzon.
Renzo Piano’s few words on Jørn Utzon in an interview best sum up the things I admire about Uzton and his works, “…Stubbornness, the famous stubbornness, but also the desire to find rational things...geometrical construction. And in the same time, the fantasy, the fantasy of understanding...vision…”
Whilst sadly compromised by the political and financial disputes associated with it, the Sydney Opera House is a true reflection of Utzon’s traits. I could go on for hours about what I love about his design but I have always been most intrigued by how Utzon’s stubbornness and uncompromising drive for perfection resulted in his premature departure from the project. With political pressure mounting due to the increasing construction costs, it was during a meeting with the new Minister of Public Works on 28 February 1966 that Utzon threatened resignation unless he could continue to pursue his design as intended. His bluff was called. But rather than bow down to political pressure, he was unmoved and submitted his formal letter of resignation only hours later. Unwavering in his commitment to his principles (“stubborn”) Utzon and his family would depart Sydney not long after and sadly never returned to see the completed project before his passing in 2008.
Piano, summarized Utzon's approach as follows: “Jørn was able to do something with the rational. Gravity, the force of gravity, structure, construction, and beauty…and vision and fantasy." In conceiving the shape and character of our Oxfords, I couldn’t think of a better set of criteria to draw upon. This was coupled with a photo taken by Sam Lambert which depicted a smiling, confident Utzon, dressed in a smart suit and elegant pair of lace-ups. They may not even be Oxfords, but I knew that I wanted the design of our shoes to reflect the confidence I saw.
I may have not put it as eloquently as Piano, but I have always believed that I would achieve the best outcome drawing inspiration from Utzon’s ability to realise a near perfect interaction between structure, construction, fantasy, and his unwavering commitment - or as some would have it, stubbornness.
- Gabriel Abi-Saab, Etymology Founder & Creative Director
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