Jorn Utzon had been affected, at the beginning of his career, when he learnt that the celebrated Swedish architect, Gunnar Asplund, had died of stress. On his death bed, Asplund asked his son whether all this effort had really been worth while. These words came back to Utzon years later when, after he had been nine years working on the design and building his winning project of the Sidney Opera House, he decided to resign from this job because he had not been shown professional respect by the Ministry of Public Works. Since then, Utzon has never returned to Australia to see his building finished.
Looking, in Porto Pietro, for an ideal refuge during his holidays, Utzon built Can Lis in 1972, set among myrtle and pine trees, with an extraordinary view to the sea. Integrating with the colours in the landscape, the main building material is a hard local limestone, called mares stone, which varies from gold to pink in colour. The original concept for the house was the same as for the one that Utzon had intended to build in Sidney; a sequence of pavilions linked by a wall, and arranged so as to respond to the various functions within the dwelling.
He explained it with a story by Karen Blixen about African farmers where she said: "It was impossible for them to build their houses in a uniform row because they followed an order that was based on the position of the sun, the places of the trees and the natural mutual relationships of the buildings." The orientation of the pavilions in Can Lis selects distinctive views of the Mediterranean, and consequently, the furniture became fixed, built on site and finished with shiny ceramic tiles. Additionally, as the window frames were mounted on the outside surface of the walls, they were made invisible from the interior, which again, stimulates the effect of light, blurring the limits between the dark interior of the house and the blistering Mediterranean sun.
For all these reasons, family life follows a route as the day passes which seems to pursue the passage of the sun.