Written in spring 1966, the lines Jørn Utzon sent to his Australian colleague Bill Wheatland while on his clandestine journey from Australia, via Mexico, back home to Denmark recall the seminal article “Platforms and Plateaus” published in issue 10 of Zodiac in 1962, while the Sydney Opera House was nearing the final phase of construction. “A Danish architect” still in charge of the completion of his masterpiece wrote about the artificial, constructed mountain with truncated top and the reconstructed top of an existing mountain.
The giant platform in Yucatan is a pediment for the temple, built exactly above the level of the dark jungle: “suddenly the jungle roof had been converted into a great open plain”. The plateau on top of the Monte Alban with cascading temples constructed around its rim is oriented upwards: “a completely independent thing floating in the air, separated from the earth—a new planet.” Exposed to the sun, the platform provides the horizon and intensifies the darkness of the jungle. The plateau magnifies the mountain into a giant telescope, detaching humans from the horizon upwards into the depths of the Universe. Platforms and plateaus are purely architectural devices similar to great engineering structures and infrastructural objects which, driven by pure engineering logic, occupy dominant, strategic positions in city or in nature. They are indeed greater than their natural or urban surroundings, yet the physical form of the surroundings is their most important reference.