The story appears on

Page B2

August 2, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Icon love affair leads to a tribute

SO this infectiously vibrant young woman born in east Germany is speaking to a decent sized crowd in a restaurant on the Bund in Shanghai about a book she's just published on a Danish architect responsible for one of the world's great landmarks, the Sydney Opera House.

Katarina Stuebe, 29, was holding forth with poise and grace as she introduced the 200-page large format, hard cover photographic essay and showed genuine interest, when signing copies bought by people who felt at ease just chatting with her. She's that kind of woman.

They admired her passion about a subject - a symbol for a city and a nation with hallmark concrete shells - that fired the considerable effort of publishing her own paean to the late designer called "Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House, A Tribute."

The book launch was hosted by Australian Consul General Tom Connor and, truth be known, many of the attendees were probably as passionate about the building as Katarina. But hers was the name on the cover as co-author and hers were the pictures illustrating it inside.

Katarina admits to a love affair with the Opera House which started in 2001 when she moved to Sydney to study architecture and photography. "I fell in love with the Opera House and started taking photographs. I wondered how anyone could possibly ever imagine this complex and unconventional structure in their mind," she said.

"I felt the desire to speak with the architect, to meet with him and ask him about his ideas. I wanted to meet him as an architectural student though, not as a fan."

She spent time "casing" the building, walking around it, absorbing its energy but with no plan about what she wanted to capture in her photographs.

"I allowed the building to reveal itself to me, to show me angles and moods it wanted me to see," she said. "It felt like the building would talk to me and I often just touched the concrete or the tiles and felt this gracious sculpture.

"The questions that rose inside me about the building and the architect helped bring it to life ... I would try to either capture my questions in a photograph or I would try to capture the answer to the question I had in my head."

Katarina graduated with a Diploma in Architectural Technology in 2003 and continued with life and work, staging a photo exhibition of Sydney people in Mallorca, Spain. But that Opera House was always on her mind. She tried to get in touch with Utzon who by then had left Mallorca and she became busy in the music business managing and photographing bands.

On a visit in 2006 to one of her bands in Denmark, Katarina met the visionary Utzon for the first time. Her inspiration for the book came from this and subsequent meetings when he shared anecdotes about his life and philosophy.

"His approach was always positive - even if something looked bad he would try to find the positive message behind it," she said, aware that the architect had never seen the completed icon building that he started.

"He had his own interpretations of my photographs and what fascinated him was the fact that to him I had captured the music of the building," she added.

Whirl of media

Katarina, now an accomplished photojournalist, worked on the book for three years with the architect's son, Jan Utzon. It was finally published with their dual bylines in May this year and generated a whirl of media appearances and book talks. Jan's father had died in late 2008.

"The book is a tribute to Jorn Utzon. Since this building is his masterpiece, it is equally a tribute to the Sydney Opera House as well," she said.

She talks of its magnetic powers: "I feel that his spirit is reflected in every pore of the Opera House.

"Having lived and studied in Australia I knew how much Australians loved their Opera House. It is quite rightly the icon of a nation but it is more than that - it is an attraction for millions of people from all over the world each year."

And the China market? "Many Chinese people visit the Opera House every year and share the same love for this Australian icon," she said. "In China the book will be available in stores that carry English books and the aim is to translate it into Chinese later this year."

She is determined that what Utzon achieved with the Sydney Opera House be spread as far as her book will enable. There have been nine book launches in Australia and after the Asia tour she will introduce it in six European cities next month, supported by both Australian and Dutch governments. (It can be ordered (A$95/US$79) through the Web page

And then? "To me, art, architecture and photography are directly related to life and our relationships. I like to go deep and show what 'makes us' the structure behind the facade - I have no interest in staying only on the surface." With this considerable project behind her, one thinks we'll be hearing a lot more of Katarina Stuebe.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend