17 June 2019:
Aalborg, Denmark:
Up Over Down Under

By Corey Sandler

Aalborg is in North Jyllland at the narrowest point of the Limfjord, a shallow sound that separates North Jutlandic Island from the rest of the Jutland Peninsula and connects Aalborg to the Kattegat about 35 kilometers or 22 miles to the east.

The earliest settlements date from about the year 700. Lindholm Høje is the largest Iron Age and Viking Age burial place in Scandinavia. More than 700 graves have been found.

The lower part of the burial site has been dated to the Viking Age of about 1000 to 1050. The upper section is centuries older, from the 5th century, the Iron Age.

Most of the graves are marked with rocks either in a triangle or as the traditional Viking stone ship.

The settlement was obviously a significant trading center, with glassware, gems, and Arab coins found at the site.

The settlement was abandoned about the year 1200, probably because of sand drifting from the western coast, a consequence of extensive deforestation.

Aalborg’s position at the narrowest point on the Limfjord made it an important harbor during the Middle Ages. Evidence of its importance can be seen in half-timbered mansions built for prosperous merchants.

Here are some photos from today:

By the middle of the 20th century, Aalborg had become known as the “city of smoking chimneys”, highly industrialized and with a population approaching 100,000. Many of the factories have now closed, replaced by knowledge and communication enterprises, and production of rotors for wind turbines.

In 2008, the Utzon Center was opened on the central harbor of Aalborg. Its design and art are credited to the noted architect Jørn Utzon, winner of the Pritzker Prize, born in Copenhagen but raised in Aalborg.

The Utzon Center on the waterfront.

You’ll find within designs and boats and usually a few examples of another Danish invention from nearby: Legos, from Billund in South Jutland.

Appropriately, Billund is a little place, population of about 6,300. But its factory is responsible for the majority of worldwide LEGO production.

Lego is derived from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”.

Lego produces something like 36 billion bricks per year, and if you will allow for a bit of poetic license, it is the world’s largest tiremaker.

Little tires.

But back to Utzon in Aalborg. He was a reasonably successful architect in Scandinavia, and he built a well-regarded home of his own north of Helsingor, near Kronborg Castle, as in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

But he came to the world’s notice in 1957 when he won an international competition to design the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the unmistakable stack of shells along that harbor.

He said he went to Kronberg Castle often as he designed the building to be installed on Sydney’s Bennelong Point, realizing the Sydney Opera House would be like Kronborg, viewed from all sides.

His design was lauded, but there were problems in construction and cost overruns. Sounds pretty ordinary for advanced architecture.

He was effectively banished from Sydney in 1966 following a dispute with local government in New South Wales. Utzon was not invited to the opening ceremonies when the opera house was inaugurated in 1973, and his name was not mentioned during any of the speeches.

Things did change, though.

Utzon came back to Sydney in the late 1990s and was engaged in update projects at the opera house. And in 2003, Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize for his work.

In 2007, the opera house was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com


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