The renowned Danish architect, J?rn Utzon, has left an undeniable mark on architectural culture, and his legacy is particularly pronounced in Australia. In 1957, Utzon was selected to design what would become Australia’s most iconic building, the Sydney Opera House. It is a building that has come to define Australia’s culture and creative ideals. 

Yet, despite this building’s status, there is no localised home for Utzon’s work, and no place to display and interrogate his legacy. Instead, J?rn Utzon’s archive is buried in boxes and basements across Sydney. This rich body of knowledge - of original drawings, prototypes, photographs and models - is a valuable public resource, alive with thoughts and experiments. Yet, it remains inaccessible and intangible to most.

Image - Can Lis by Jorn Utzon (Photograph: J McMaster)









The MA|UA (Museum of Architecture | Utzon Archive) forms a permanent home for J?rn Utzon’s archive in Sydney. It makes this archive public, tactile and richly experiential.

The building consolidates and catalogues Utzon’s archive in a single place. At its core, the design employs a series of elevated Wunderkammer to store and display the content, making it accessible to a curious public.


The archive is the backbone and basis upon which this new museum produces, curates and exhibits work. Three archival pillars sit at the building’s core, with public programs and contemporary exhibits taking place in between. Archive and museum co-exist in a constant dialogue between past and present, old and new. Likewise, the architecture of the MA|UA mediates between the scale required of a public building, and the human scale of the objects on display. 

The building is sited on a slender wedge adjacent to Sydney’s ‘Goods Line,’  a long, linear public space which transforms a disused railway line into an urban park. In order to compliment these uses, the MA|UA is open and permeable, drawing visitors inside.


The architecture is comprised of three key elements: protective pillars which store and display archival content, a viewing sequence which provides opportunities for architectural encounter, and a clouded facade that obscures and envelopes, creating intrigue.

The MA|UA is a meandering path that alters its pace, proportions and spatial character to create rich, layered experiences. Expanding on Utzon’s ideals of counterpoint, the spaces pulse between solid and void, dark and light. They compress to create intimacy, and open to provide respite and clarity. Ascent is used to intensify experience, and relationships are constantly maintained with the scale of the body and the hand..


The architectural approach of the MA|UA merges the two, often competing, trajectories of archive and museum: to preserve past knowledge and human creation, and to encourage contemporary thought. Instead, it uses the past to enrich the present, and positions history as a cornerstone upon which new ideas evolve. 

This project was the recipient of the 2015 NSW Design Medal and  2017 Archiprix International Award.



The Museum of Architecture and Utzon Archive is an accomplished response to a complex architectural brief that presents architecture as both content and artefact. It is a project that engages with the public through its urban responsiveness and through the clarity of organisation and idea.

Conceptually, the new gallery spaces present a clear diagram of organisation that allows the visitor to appreciate the work of J?rn Utzon through the collection and display of the archive material held in separate NSW archives, and through the physical representation of his ideas in the building itself.

The concept expresses powerful architectural ideas of podium and base walls and enclosure, all covered by a translucent veil that result in an open and approachable public building. The siting and entry to the building along the Ultimo Goods Line enhances the public nature of the new museum and would provide a positive influence to the development of this significant urban renewal project.