2011 Pritzker Prize Ceremony: Eduardo Souto de Moura, and Barack Obama

Last night we had the honor of attending the 2011 Pritzker Prize Ceremony in , where Portuguese architect received this important recognition.

This was the third time we attended the event (after 2009 in Buenos Aires and 2010 in New York) and it was a special evening, not only because of the renowned architects attending the event, but also for the presenting speech by President Barack Obama. Obama, a friend of the Pritzker family, delivered a short but interesting speech to Souto de Moura and the architects. Obama’s interest in architecture goes way back as we’ve heard him state that he thought he could be an architect, but as he said at the speech “I expected to be more creative than I turned out, so I had to go into politics instead”.

It’s worth mentioning that Obama referred to the Pritzker Prize as the Nobel of architecture, a common comparison that puts the importance of this recognition in context.

After several mentions to architecture, his hometown Chicago, Mies (his campaign HQ was in a Mies building), Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Jefferson’s Monticello, he mentioned that architecture is about “creating buildings and spaces that inspire us, that help us do our jobs, that bring us together, and that become, at their best, works of art that we can move through and live in. And in the end, that’s why architecture can be considered the most democratic of art forms.

Eduardo Souto de Moura and Renzo Piano

About Souto de Moura’s work he mentioned that it was “effortless and beautiful”, and he highlighted the fact that the Braga Stadium was a democratic building, as he not only served the audience but people on the outside.

After Obama and Lord Palumbo (chairman of the Pritzker jury) Eduardo Souto de Moura accepted his recognition, and said something very interesting that made me understand contemporary Portuguese architecture. He developed his work during the 1974 revolution in Portugal, after which the country required to give housing to millions of people. At that time post modernism was starting strong in the country, but that wasn´t the way to do housing (with columns and arches), which led to a late modernism that we see on his works, which in my opinion became a legacy to the new generation of Portuguese architects. More photos after the break:

ArchDaily editor David Basulto and Eduardo Souto de Moura
Eduardo Souto de Moura
Barack and Michelle Obama
Richard Gere and Alejandro Aravena, photo by Giovana Franceschetto
Rafael Moneo, Kevin Roche and Hans Hollein, photo by Giovana Franceschetto
Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano, photo by Giovana Franceschetto

Cite: Basulto, David. "2011 Pritzker Prize Ceremony: Eduardo Souto de Moura, and Barack Obama" 04 Jun 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 18 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=140612>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Good architect. Nice honor. But why so many American flags? Did they make everyone sing the Star-Spangled Banner too?

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    haha so funny! the pritzker was to Souto de Moura, not to Barack “Marionette” Obama. Yes! i’d like listening to the architect!

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Um…. thats because the pritzker prize was for architects. Barack Obama is not an architect…
      ok bye

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    5 US flags on the background and not even 1 Portuguese flag. what a shame, honestly…

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Funny that I find Obama’s speech easily online, however there’s NO trace anywhere of Sout Moura’s SUPER interesting speech!!!

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        I’m glad the speech was taped and that you plan to publish it, but after a few days doesn’t it lose the momentum of being NEWS?
        What? Had trouble finding someone to translate it from the Portuguese?

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Souto de Moura, continuará a inspirar várias gerações do universo arquitectónico. O mérito foi devidamente premiado. Muitos parabéns.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Great coverage. So glad you were there! Can’t wait for the speech to be put up. Thanks.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The level of importance that architecture bears, to me, is on an even level with any of the other arts or practices of distinction, if not more. I am not sure that Mr. Obama is qualified enough to praise and honor Mr. Eduardo Souto de Moura, a bit of a disrespect I felt the first time I saw the speech in the video, where Mr. Obama failed to properly discuss de Moura’s work and the commitment that he has shown to architecture through his career. Although I do have to commend the Presidents words for what architecture as an art form can achieve. I too believe that through architecture we can inspire and bring together ideas for positive change to the world in which we live. I am just feeling that the event became more about the US president rather than Mr. de Moura and his life’s work. It might be that since the ceremony was held in Washington that the venue took precedence over the work being honored. Also, I am still not seeing Mr. de Moura’s speech posted within the rest of the other videos. I also feel very proud that there is a distinction and an honor that is presented to architecture, something as important as the Nobel Prizes. We as designers take on a great responsibility through our craft, we are people who need to envision a better world in which we can live, and then building that world that was created through our imaginations and love for mankind. A better tomorrow will exist through the acknowledgement of the work of people who envision that better tomorrow.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Sounds like he never read the part of his speech which describes Moura’s work before. Sounded like a quote from an architecture magazine!.. pfff..

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