When Jørn Utzon won the competition to design the Opera House in Sydney Harbour in 1957, he went from being a struggling 38-year old architect living in rural Denmark to being in the spotlight at the centre of the world stage. All eyes were on him.

This lovely drawing is what he had in mind. He worked very hard to try and make it happen. But politics and the worst side of human nature intervened to rob him of his project and the spotlight.

The Sydney Opera House was completed in 1973 and there was quite a party. Jørn Utzon was not invited to the ceremony, nor was he given any official recognition as the architect of this amazing building.

He lived a long life–to age 90–but never saw the completed building in person.

Australians who grew up with the Opera House let him know they wanted him to come down and see it, and they were more than prepared to give him the celebration he deserved. As reported in the Telegraph for example

Out of the spotlight, Jørn Utzon quietly went about his work. He designed a house in England in the 1960’s.

Recently, it went up for sale and was described by observers as the finest modern house in Britain. Seen here

Jørn Utzon himself continued to live mostly in modest houses he designed for his family in Denmark and Mallorca. This is the road to his first house, located in the forest north of Copenhagen, photographed by intrepid admirers known as SEIER+SEIER. More at their photo set on Flickr.

As with many Danes, Mr Utzon was a complete designer. He could design your house (for residing or for Opera), your furniture, and every light in every room. There is s great deal of affection for this modest, talented man within the architectural community and beyond. His remarkable life is a stunning demonstration of the fickleness of fame.

Typical restrained tribute here.


Greta Magnusson Grossman

Above is a model and the resulting house (image from here) built in Beverly Hills in 1948 designed by Greta Magnusson Grossman for herself and her family as a showcase of her skills as an architect and designer of interiors, furniture and lighting.

Above is the house in 2009. Info and more pics here in the LA Times

Swedish born, Greta Magnusson Grossman (1906-1999) came to America in the 1940 and soon established a strong reputation for architecture and industrial design in the clean, uncluttered style that was especially strong in California, where she settled

Above some of Greta’s early designs still in existence and looking good. Seen here for eg

She opened a shop in Beverly Hills (on Rodeo Drive!) in the 1940’s where she sold her very nifty furniture and lamps to the locals, including famed actors like Greta Garbo.

Grasshopper Lamp 1947 and Gooseneck Table Lamp with reflector

Walnut and iron desk, circa 1952. Above lamps and desk from LA Times article

Between 1949 and 1959 Grossman designed at least fourteen homes in Los Angeles, including 2 for herself. They are classics that hold their own against those of people like Charles and Ray Eames and Pierre Koenig.

The beauty above is known as the Kiernan House in Hollywood, 1952 (image from here). Yet today, her name is much less well known than others associated with the golden age of California modern design.

What happened? She was already famous in Sweden before she came to America, then she became even more famous in the land of fame, Los Angeles, where she was well known to the biggest stars of the day.

It’s sad . And strange. How fame comes and goes. Image above from here

Ms Grossman, who died in 1999, ended her professional life 30 years before that. And she seems to have done nothing to stoke the flames of her fame for those remaining years.

However, lately, others have been doing so on her behalf, so her star may be rising again. A major exhibition of her work has just ended in Stockholm at Arkitekturmuseet. (curated by Evan Snyderman, owner of R 20th Century Gallery in New York). Above image from here.

Wallpaper noticed and so did lots of online design watchers around the world, eg this one in France. There was also a recent showing in New York of her Drawings.

“She was all about creating comfort within a modernist sensibility.” Evan Snyderman, owner of R 20th Century Gallery in New York. Good biographical material here.

Who’s Next?

Above is a shot of Studio Gang from their website here. They have been singled out by various architecture watchers as one of the leading contenders for future and lasting fame. Part of the reason is their BrickWeave House below.

Photos above of BrickWeave House in Chicago: Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing

The gang also designed this amazing 82-story residential/hotel skyscraper called Aqua in Chicago. Here’s another view.

A few months ago, the New York Times included the head of the studio Jeanne Gang in their list of Nifty 50. Here’s a photo of Ms Gange from that NYT feature.

That’s fame all right. Will it last? Stay tuned.

Or maybe, this is the next ONE. Image from here . Who knows?