For years, the Pritzker Prize has been the gold-standard in architectural recognition. It’s like the Super Bowl ring, or the Oscar for Best Picture, or whatever Joey Chestnut wins for downing 60-some hot dogs at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. (It’s gotta be a sash, right? It’s probably a sash.) This is the hallowed ground where the Pritzker lives. But it could soon be trumped in a big way. In a big enough way that even knighthood can’t quite compare. Hear that, Sir Norman Foster?
Pritzker Prize–winning Austrian architect, artist, engineer, and designer, Hans Hollein, has died at the age of 80. Born in Vienna in 1934, Hollein attended the Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in that city and graduated in 1956. Following graduation he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship, affording him the opportunity to travel to the United States. He did graduate work at the Illinois Institute of Technology and completed his masters degree in architecture at the University of California, Berkeley in 1960. During those years he met and worked with Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Richard Neutra.
Robert Venturi won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1991. His wife and professional collaborator Denise Scott Brown was not recognized, sparking a controversy that has raged ever since. Following a recent round of petitions and editorials calling for a retroactive prize–or some form of recognition—the current Pritzker jury chair, Lord Peter Palumbo, sent a letter on the matter to two current students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Caroline James, organizers of the most prominent of the recent petitions.
Palumbo made it clear that no retroactive prize was possible: “Insofar as you have in mind a retroactive award of the prize to Ms. Scott Brown, the present jury cannot do so. Pritzker juries, over time, are made up of different individuals, each of whom does his or her best to find the most highly qualified candidate.” Palumbo left open the possibility of recognition for Scott Brown. “Let us assure you, however, that Ms. Scott Brown remains eligible for the Pritzker Award. That award is given on the basis of an architect’s total body of built work.” Palumbo further acknowledged the context of the controversy: “We should like to thank you for calling directly to our attention a more general problem, namely that assuring women and fair and equal place in the profession.”
A few years ago Drexel University embarked on an ambitious plan to convert one of Philadelphia’s iconic postmodern landmarks by Venturi Scott Brown Associates (VSBA) into a new home for the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. Tonight the University will celebrate the official opening of its new building, dubbed the URBN Center, with a series of performances and demonstrations to showcase student work.
Chinese architect Wang Shu has been named the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate, marking the first time a Chinese architect has been honored prize which brings a bronze medal and $100,000 purse. Wang Shu is known for building with traditional Chinese forms and materials, often recycling bricks and tiles to form a patchwork mosaic in his buildings, which demonstrate a distinct modern sensibility. He is professor and head of architecture at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China and founded Amateur Architecture Studio with Lu Wenyu in 1998 where he has taken an outspoken stance against architecture that he perceives as destroying vast urban and rural landscapes across China.
Not so Clean. White brick buildings, once favored in the 50s and 60s for their shiny glaze and supposed waterproofing and self-cleaning benefits, are now a costly headache for New York City, reported the NY Times. The glaze, it turns out, actually traps moisture and causes cracks and deterioration, with repairs climbing into the millions of dollars.
Back to Basics. While architects nowadays can get away with their shaky doodles (of the physically impossible buildings and cartoonish people with disproportionate heads) as long as they prove their CAD proficiency, the just-launched Beaux-Arts Atelier feels differently– only when you master the basics can you be freer to do crazier, modern things with more creative control. More on The Wall Street Journal.
The Digitals. Architecture historian and journalist critic Alexandra Lange critically compares the content and design of four new digital interior design magazines and discusses the merits of blogs. Read her thoughts on Arch Record.
Juried Judge. The NY Times ran a story about Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s selection to join the Pritzker Prize jury, citing AN‘s report from September. The move looks to be a good one for architecture, as Breyer, a fan of Gothic and Beaux-Arts architecture, has pushed for better design of federal buildings.
Last night President Obama spoke at the ceremony for this year’s Pritzker Prize winner, Eduardo Souto de Moura. He invoked Thomas Jefferson, the architectural glories of Chicago, and praised Souto de Moura’s work for balancing “form and function with artistry and accessibility.” Obama is close to the Pritzker family, and Penny Pritzker was one of the most significant fundraisers for his campaign. Still it is nice to see the White House bringing some attention to the “Nobel Prize of architecture.” Check out our recent interview and comment on Souto de Moura.
Tweeting Seat. Imagine if the public realm was able to reach out digitally and interact through the internet. Yanko Design spotted just such a bench by designer Christopher McNicholl which tweets about people sitting on the aptly-named @TweetingSeat. Two cameras — one watching the bench and one looking outward — continuously let curious people all over the world who is taking a break.
Second in Line. The Wall Street Journal spoke with an anonymous philanthropist and architecture fan from Iowa who is looking for the world’s second most famous architect. According to the story, the donor is willing to pony up $300 million to any city that does not hire Frank Gehry to design its art museum. “Don’t get me wrong, I like iconoclastic, swoopy structures that look like bashed-in sardine cans as much as the next guy… I’m just saying we should give an architect not named Frank Gehry a chance.” Ouch.
Presidential Pritzker. Blair Kamin reports that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be in attendance at the Pritzker Prize award dinner for Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura. It’s the first time a president sat in on the ceremonies since the Clintons dined with Renzo Piano in 1998. Also check out AN‘s exclusive Commentary and Q+A with Souto de Moura.
Safdie’s False Solution. Oren Safdie, playwright and son of architect Moshie Safdie, is making progress on the third part of his trilogy of architecture-themed plays and will be conducting a reading this evening in LA. A False Solution tells the story of of a Jewish-German architect whose resolve is shaken by a young intern after winning a Holocaust museum in Poland. (Via ArchNewsNow.)
Fumihiko Maki was named AIA’s 2011 Gold Medal winner last Thursday, making him the 67th in that illustrious line. Maki began his career in the 1960s as a part of the group of Japanese architects known as the Metabolists who championed large biomorphic structures that could expand and change as needed. His more recent designs, such as the new Media Lab at MIT, present a decidedly fixed composition, though MIT retains the suggestion of interchangeable volumes. The concept did find its way into Maki’s thoroughly adaptable interior, as was noted during a walk-through by AN last spring.