Before the official commencement of the six-week MADE program in Denmark, the Australian MADE students resided for four nights at Can Lis - Jørn Utzon’s own residence in Mallorca, Spain. This unique opportunity was generously arranged by Danish MADE partner, The Obel Family Foundation. Below is a recount of the students’ insights:
“Staying at Can Lis was a very special experience and a remarkable way to commence the MADE program.
Can Lis is perched on a cliffside escarpment, in an isolated town on the south eastern coast of Mallorca. Designed as a summer house for the Utzon family, it was completed in 1971 and hosted the family for many years. The site is beautiful, peaceful and almost eerily quiet, with an endless horizon line of ocean meeting sky stretching beyond the rugged coastline and out to the sea.
Can Lis itself is very unique. The construction of the house was closely overseen by Utzon, and the quality of craftsmanship is impeccable. The house is built with a local, blush pink Santanyi stone, which is textured with natural fissures and wear. Marks made from circular saw cuttings are traced across the walls, floors and ceilings, all of which are formed in this stone.
The house plays upon ideas of prospect and refuge. The building itself, with its thick and solid walls, feels anchored and cave-like. Furnishings are kept to a minimum, with many of them, including bed nooks and the main lounge, also formed from the stone. The construction system of the house, a post-and-beam structure with infill walls, calls to mind the remains of ancient temples and ruins.
The relationship with the exterior is another constant in this house. Can Lis is arranged as a series of discrete pavilions, strung in a line along the cliff’s edge. These pavilions are linked by courtyards and stepping stones, which one meanders through while moving from room to room. The functions of each pavilion are kept separate: cooking, living and sleeping are all contained in distinct buildings. A certain peace comes from this separation, as each activity becomes focused and uncluttered.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this house is its spatial composition. In each room, the windows create small vignettes, the walls funneling inwards to frame a single tree or the wavering horizon line. These simple perspective views are almost like paintings - strikingly simple and clear.
Similarly, light takes on a painterly quality in this house. Watching the light move through the living room throughout the day was captivating. The large, tapered windows force light to fall in sharp, dramatic shards across the floor. A small, highlight window in the lounge room emits light for only a few moments before sunset, allowing a streak of sun to highlight the stone wall.
While in Mallorca we also had the opportunity to visit Palma. We saw the city’s main cathedral, La Seu, and wandered the old, cobbled streets. We also enjoyed driving through Mallorca’s countryside, which is littered with crumbling stone buildings, farms and distant mountains.
The Utzon family has evidently left its mark on this place. The people in our local town were very warm and welcoming, and displayed great pride in their connection to the Utzons’. Many of them knew the family personally, particularly Lin, who has completed an artwork locally, and returns to the area regularly.
It was an incredible privilege staying at Can Lis. The house is a very moving piece of architecture and affected us each in very distinctive ways. Our stay allowed us to develop a deeper connection to the work of Utzon, and enriched our understanding of how he thought and worked. The experience brought us together as a team, and imbued in us all an even greater respect for Jørn Utzon.”
Article and images by Laura Craft, Jennifer McMaster, Robert Martin, Olivia Savio-Matev and Matthew Wells