Dear Martha: An Open Letter to the Pritzker Prize Committee

00:00 - 22 January, 2015
Courtesy of Conrad Newel
Courtesy of Conrad Newel

As the Pritzker Jury begins its deliberations for the 2015 Pritzker Prize, this is a critical time of year for shaping the landscape of architectural debate for the coming year and beyond. The following is an open letter to Martha Thorne, the Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize, from Conrad Newel, author of the popular blog Notes on Becoming a Famous Architect.

Dear Martha,

I have to hand it to you and all the people on the Pritzker committee, you guys are a very crafty bunch. Just when I thought I had you all figured out, you have now - even though only slightly - succeeded in confounding me.

From my 2011 analysis of the Pritzker, I figured that your potential pool of laureates was always a very predictable bunch. In fact anyone could look at my data and predict with reasonable certainty that the next laureate would most likely be an Asian or Caucasian male starchitect from Europe, The USA, or Japan. I further pointed out that none of your laureates have done much in the way of humanitarianism, despite the fact that the mission statement of the Pritzker also asks that the recipient should be making significant contributions to humanity. I maintained that this part of the mandate has been consistently overlooked.

Pritzker Prize Appoints Richard Rogers As Newest Jury Member

00:00 - 15 January, 2015
© Andrew Zuckermann/RSHP
© Andrew Zuckermann/RSHP

The Pritzker Prize has announced that Richard Rogers will join the ranks as the latest member of its prestigious jury. Rogers, a Pritzker Laureate himself in 2007, is known for his innovative High-Tech style, establishing his name in the 1970s and 80s with buildings such as the Pompidou Centre in Paris and Lloyds of London. Since then, he has also become known for his advocacy in a range of urban issues, being commissioned by the UK Government to produce a report on British cities entitled "Towards an Urban Renaissance," and for his active role in politics as a member of the House of Lords.

TED Talk: My Architectural Philosophy? Bring the Community Into the Process / Alejandro Aravena

00:00 - 6 November, 2014

“If there is any power in design, that’s the power of synthesis.”

In this TED Talk Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, the founder of ELEMENTAL, speaks about some of the design challenges he has faced in Chile and his innovative approaches to solving them. Emphasizing the need for simplicity in design, Aravena talks about three of his projects: the Quinta Monroy social housing project, through which he developed the “half-finished home” typology for governments to provide quality homes at incredibly low-prices; his “inside-out” design for the Pontifical Catholic University’s Innovation Center UC – Anacelto Angelini, which reduced energy costs by two-thirds; and lastly his masterplan for rebuilding a resilient coastline in Constitución Chile after the city was hit by the 2010 earthquake.

Aravena also emphasized the importance of community participation in his projects, saying: “We won’t ever solve the problem unless we use people’s own capacity to build.” Watch Aravena’s full talk above and take a peek at some of his key projects below. 

TED Talk: My Architectural Philosophy? Bring the Community Into the Process / Alejandro Aravena TED Talk: My Architectural Philosophy? Bring the Community Into the Process / Alejandro Aravena TED Talk: My Architectural Philosophy? Bring the Community Into the Process / Alejandro Aravena TED Talk: My Architectural Philosophy? Bring the Community Into the Process / Alejandro Aravena +11

Benedetta Tagliabue Appointed as Newest Pritzker Prize Jury Member

00:00 - 29 October, 2014
Benedetta Tagliabue. Image © Vicens Gimenez
Benedetta Tagliabue. Image © Vicens Gimenez

Barcelona architect Benedetta Tagliabue has been appointed as the newest and ninth member of the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury, joining Martha Thorne (executive director), Peter Palumbo (chair), Alejandro Aravena, Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Kristin Feireiss, Glenn Murcutt, Juhani Pallasmaa and Ratan N. Tata.

Happy Birthday Robert Venturi

00:00 - 25 June, 2014
© Denise Scott Brown
© Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi, the architect famous for "less is a bore," turns 89 today. Venturi started his firm in 1964 and ran it with his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown from 1967 until 2012. Today the Pritzker Prize winner's legacy lives on as the firm continues under the name VSBA (Venturi Scott Brown Associates). 

Live from Amsterdam: Pritzker Prize Award Ceremony with Shigeru Ban

00:00 - 13 June, 2014

The 2014 Pritzker Prize Ceremony to honor laureate Shigeru Ban is taking place today in Amsterdam at 17:00 UCT.

Shigeru Ban's "Kooky" Architecture: Just What the World Needs?

00:00 - 13 June, 2014
Workers in Chengdu, China, assemble the Hualin Temporary Elementary School, designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Image Courtesy of Forgemind ArchiMedia
Workers in Chengdu, China, assemble the Hualin Temporary Elementary School, designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Image Courtesy of Forgemind ArchiMedia

British writer Tim Abrahams finds Shigeru Ban's architecture "kooky, Middle Earthy, Hobbity" – an opinion which earns him the title of "idiot" in the eyes of newly appointed Architecture for Humanity Executive Director Eric Cesal. In an article for the Boston Review, Stephen Phelan uses the pair's opposing opinions to illustrate the Pritzker Prize winning architect's perceived failures and successes. Read his very engaging take, here.

Spotlight: Toyo Ito

01:00 - 1 June, 2014
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2002 / Toyo Ito + Cecil Balmond + Arup. Image © Sylvain Deleu
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2002 / Toyo Ito + Cecil Balmond + Arup. Image © Sylvain Deleu

As one of the leading architects of Japan's increasingly highly-regarded architecture culture, 2013 Pritzker Laureate Toyo Ito (born June 1, 1941) has defined his career by combining elements of minimalism with an embrace of technology, in a way that merges both traditional and contemporary elements of Japanese culture.

Spotlight: Frei Otto

01:00 - 31 May, 2014
© Ingenhoven und Partner Architekten, Düsseldorf
© Ingenhoven und Partner Architekten, Düsseldorf

German architect and structural engineer Frei Otto (31 May 1925 – 9 March 2015) was well known for his pioneering innovations in lightweight and tensile structures. Shortly before his death in 2015 he was awarded the Pritzker Prize and prior to that he was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2006. Much of his research in lightweight structures is as relevant today as when he first proposed them over 60 years ago, and his work continues to inform architects and engineers to this day.

German Pavilion, Expo ’67. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn Diplomatic Club Heart Tent. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn Aviary at the Munich Zoo. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn Japan Pavilion, Expo 2000. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn +13

The Pritzker-Profit Connection: Shigeru Ban's Works Gaining Value in NYC

00:00 - 9 April, 2014

A recent article from The New York Times confirms something we've all long-suspected. A Pritzker translates into big bucks. Demand for Shigeru Ban's Manhattan buildings has soared since his awarding of the prize. The New York Times reports that page views of the Metal Shutter Houses, for example, have quadrupled on the listings site Streeteasy.com. Why? The Pritzker name carries weight:

Spotlight: Jørn Utzon

01:00 - 9 April, 2014
Sydney Opera House. Image © Flickr - User: Jong Soo (Peter) Lee
Sydney Opera House. Image © Flickr - User: Jong Soo (Peter) Lee

Pritzker Prize winning architect Jørn Utzon, who died in 2008 aged 90, was the relatively unknown Dane who, on the 29th January 1957, was announced as the winner of the ‘International competition for a national opera house at Bennelong Point, Sydney’. When speaking about this iconic building, Louis Kahn stated that:

The sun did not know how beautiful its light was, until it was reflected off this building.

Unfortunately, Utzon never saw the Sydney Opera House, his most popular work, completed. Learn of his fascinating story, after the break.

Original Drawing - Sydney Opera House. Image © Jørn Utzon / Courtesy of Bibliodyssey Original Drawing - Sydney Opera House. Image © Jørn Utzon / Courtesy of Bibliodyssey Original Drawing - Sydney Opera House. Image © Jørn Utzon / Courtesy of Bibliodyssey Original Roof Plan - Sydney Opera House. Image © Jørn Utzon / Courtesy of Bibliodyssey +18

Jury Member Juhani Pallasmaa On Finding Less "Obvious" Pritzker Laureates

00:00 - 31 March, 2014

Last week, while the ArchDaily team was in Mexico City for the Mextrópoli Conference, we caught up with Pritzker Jury member Juhani Pallasmaa and asked him to shed some light onto the recent winners of one of architecture's highest honors. Watch Pallasmaa, a renowned Finnish architect and professor, explain what motivates his approach for recognizing architects in a world with "so much publicity."

"The Pritzker jury has now, for at least 5 years, tried to select architects who are not the most obvious names because there is so much publicity in the architectural world and we'd rather try to find architects who have not been published everywhere else..."

The Pritzker Prize: Making Architects "Starchitects" Since 1979 (But at What Cost?)

00:00 - 27 March, 2014
Architecture's Highest Honor. Top Left to Right: Rafael Moneo (1996) Image © Lee Salem; PeterZumthor (2009); Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron (2001) Image © Rex Stucky; Rem Koolhaas (2000) Image © Zoog.
Architecture's Highest Honor. Top Left to Right: Rafael Moneo (1996) Image © Lee Salem; PeterZumthor (2009); Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron (2001) Image © Rex Stucky; Rem Koolhaas (2000) Image © Zoog.

The coveted title “Pritzker Prize Laureate” is more or less synonymous today with the label “star-architect,” a term I loathe and that most of those described as such will probably find irritating and embarrassing. And for good reason. Stardom in the sense of celebrity does not help the cause of architecture. Wang Shu’s wife, Lu Wenyu, said as much when she asked not to be named as co-laureate with her husband. In an interview with El Pais, she remarked, “I’m happy to be able to do architecture that I believe helps our towns and cities to be better. I’m convinced that to talk about this awakens interest in others – not being famous.”

Of course the Pritzker Prize does not set out to create a school of architects famous for being famous, but to recognise, celebrate and support talent, persistence and perhaps a unique contribution to the cause of architecture. The prize winners each deserve that recognition whether we agree or not with the choice of an individual recipient.

The fame culture is generated not so much by altruistic cultural institutions, but largely by a star-struck media wanting to create a cast of famous characters to write about. There is, of course, pressure from editors to do so, too, fearing perhaps that anything else might lose readers hungry for celebrity culture. Of course, the critic gains a kind of minor celebrity status, too, through association with this “star” culture.

VIDEO: Charlie Rose Interviews Tom Pritzker and Shigeru Ban

00:00 - 26 March, 2014

Charlie Rose sits down with Tom Pritzker and 2014 Pritzker laureate Shigeru Ban to discuss the importance of architecture, the purpose of the Prize and the significance of Ban’s selection. The discussion starts at 40:00, following coverage on the Malaysian Airline’s tragedy.

Infographic: The Pritzker Prize 1979 - 2015

00:00 - 25 March, 2014

Last week, Frei Otto was announced as the 40th recipient of the Pritzker Prize, the latest in a long line of talented architects (as well as the first architect to ever receive the Prize posthumously). Learn more about the Prize and its winners after the break! 

Pritzker Juror Alejandro Aravena on Shigeru Ban: Virtuousity in Service of Our Most Urgent Challenges

00:00 - 25 March, 2014

The following is Alejandro Aravena's response to the Shigeru Ban's Pritzker winAravena is the executive director of the firm ELEMENTAL S.A and a member of the Pritzker Jury who selected Ban as this year's Pritzker Laureate.

From #Baffled to #BanstheMan! Twitterverse Reacts to Shigeru Ban's Pritzker Win

00:00 - 25 March, 2014

We culled the Twitterverse looking for reactions to Shigeru Ban's Prizker win - from readers and critics alike. While the responses were generally positive, some were less so. 

Post 2 PP Interview

00:00 - 25 March, 2014

Last week we had the opportunity to interview this year's Pritzker Prize winner, Shigeru Ban, within his Metal Shutters Houses in New York City. The Japanese architect, who was a member of the Pritzker jury from 2006-2009, gave us his thoughtful, humble response to receiving architecture's most prestigious prize, saying the win is an "encouragement for me to continue working to make great architecture as well as working in disaster areas."