The ingenuity of Can Lis lies in its reinterpretation of traditional Majorcan building methods and the use of local building materials.
Can Lis was planned an organic, unified whole, its layout framing the day-to-day events that marked Utzon family life. Jørn Utzon’s ideology centred on this very phenomenon – that architecture is not an external form: it is primarily the frame that encloses a collection of ritualized events. Precise studies in 1:1 of the site potential resulted in a set of interim drawings. Based on these drawings and with the help of the local building contractor Jaime Vidal, the house’s final design emerged during the course of the building process.
Can Lis has been singled out by several leading architecture critics as one of the most important houses of the 20th century.
The renovation of Can Lis
The transformation of Can Lis from a rather rundown family home to a contemporary artist’s refuge demanded a rigorous approach. Restoration was carried out between October 2011 and February 2012. The philosophy behind the restoration, undertaken by architect Lise Juel, was born of a close study of the architectural basis of the house. This permitted an abstract approach to the masterpiece and a consideration of the building as a varied spatial landscape whose potential could be realised in several ways. The primary space in the house had a spiritual and material sensuousness that was completely absent in the kitchen, bathroom and other auxiliary rooms. Because we have come to appreciate these areas as the setting for important rituals, it was essential to incorporate and experience them as a coherent part of Can Lis’ sequence of spaces. All the new details have followed Can Lis’ own set of rules: understated in essence, they serve to sharpen the focus of a sublime building.
Lise Juel was appointed to handle the restoration of Can Lis due to her earlier collaboration with Jørn Utzon on the Utzon Center building in Aalborg, Denmark.
Kim Utzon on the renovation of Can Lis, April 2012:
“For the record I would just like to say how pleased I am with the results of the renovation by the Utzon Foundation. It is now quite clear that the restraint exercised in making changes (which are mostly in functional areas), has produced a result that would have made dad happy. The effect is pure, simple and totally in keeping with the house’s central space, the terrace, kitchen/dining area, sitting room and bedrooms, where space is the decisive factor. The exclusive use of marés stone is important.”
© Jørn Oberg Utzon
“Contemplation” – photography by Torben Eskerod