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Eduardo Souto de Moura

Strolling the Architectural Zoo: Eisenmanis Infuribus (click to enlarge)

Later today (in my time zone), the jury of the Pritzker Prize will reveal the name of the laureate for the 2012 edition of the award. This year, the 9-member jury integrated by Lord Peter Palumbo, Alejandro Aravena, Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Glenn Murcutt, Juhani Pallasmaa, Karen Stein, and Martha Thorne will decide the name of the architect who will be invested as the 34th laureate in a ceremony that will take place in Beijing. Thomas J. Pritzker, in reference to his city being selected as this year’s host, commented that “over the three decades of prize-giving, we have held ceremonies in fourteen different countries, in venues ranging from the white house in Washington DC to Todai-Ji temple in Nara, Japan. the tradition of moving the event to world sites of architectural significance was established to emphasize that the prize is international, the laureates having been chosen from 16 different nations to date. This will be our 34th event marking the first time we have gone to China.” Inevitably, China and Beijing have also hosted an increasing number of projects built by past Pritzker Prize laureates, such as Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Herzog&de Meuron, and I.M. Pei, winner of the 1983 edition.

Over the years, the Pritzker organization has featured a combination of total predictability, submitting to the architectural status quo by awarding its prize to the decreasing members of the star(chitectural) system who are left -and the Oscar-like custom to reward old-timers in not particularly moments of their careers before it’s too late-, and a penchant for alternating those with lesser-known names, usually artisans from the outside of the anglo-saxon market. In 2011, Eduardo Souto de Moura came (at least for me), as a pleasant surprise, and this year there seems to be a consensus -as there was last year- on Steven Holl’s or Toyo Ito’s likeability to become laureated. However, the web resounds with many other names, from David Chipperfield to Kengo Kuma and Ben Van Berkel, or even the recently deceased Luis Moreno Mansilla, among other more extravagant proposals. There seems to be also a big consensus on the unlikeability of both Daniel Libeskind and Peter Eisenman, who I think would qualify to reprise the equivalent of Martin Scorsese’s role in  the Oscars of 2006.

Anyone wanna bet?

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UPDATE: Finally, Chinese architect Wang Shu, from “Amateur Architecture Studio” received this year’s Pritzker Prize.

From Chigago Tribune’s Cityscapes: Wang Shu, 49 (left), deftly melds tradition and modernity, often by reusing bricks and tiles from demolished buildings in such bold new designs as a history museum in the Chinese city of Ningbo. Wang calls his office the “Amateur Architecture Studio,” yet that name is far too modest, the jury that selected him said in its citation. His work “is that of a virtuoso in full command of the instruments of architecture—form, scale, material, space and light,” said the jury, which mainly consists of architectural experts. This year, it included for the first time U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who has a keen interest in the field.

In a telephone interview from Los Angeles on Saturday, Wang said the award was “big surprise.” He was sharply critical of the tabula rasa development practices that are transforming the cities of the world’s most populous nation.  “Originally, Chinese had many beautiful cities,” Wang said in his clear but imperfect English. “They demolish everything. They called it modern city. They build a very wide road system. Then every block they give to a development company to build a high-rise apartment building. Suddenly we let every Chinese city become big suburb. (…) New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas combined together (…) is Shanghai.”
 
Wang and his wife, Lu Wenyu, founded their practice in 1997 in the southeastern Chinese city of Hangzhou. Their portolio spans a broad range of scales, from museums, high-rise apartments and college buildings to single-family houses whose curving roofs subtly evoke ancient Chinese pagodas. The Pritzker jury singled out Wang’s Ningbo history museum as a superbly-functioning icon that presents a powerful alternative to the twin extremes of architectural nostalgia and shock-of-the-new modernity. “In this world, people like to talk about science, technology, computer,” Wang said. I like to talk about architecture by hand–hand-drawing to hand-making.”  
 
“His buildings have the unique ability to evoke the past, without making direct references to history,” the jury said in its citation.  Although jury members knew the presentation would be made in Beijing when they deliberated earlier this year, the location of the ceremonies did not influence their decision, according to administrators of the prize. “The jury does not speak about geography. They never portion out between countries. The only concern they have is architectural quality,” said Martha Thorne, the prize’s executive director.
 
More at Cityscapes and EdgarGonzalez.com.

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A fistful of useful links: The official announcement can be found at the Pritzker official site here, along with a -not that- short bio of the architect. An architectural tour through Wang Shu’s different works can be found in this post by Edgar González, and this other one in Domus, while Los Vacíos Urbanos offers a nice set of the Ningbo Museum with photgraphs by Iwan Baan (more here). Another impressive set by Evan Chakroff  can be found in Archinect (more in Evan’s own blog, Tenuous Resilience), and A Weekly Dose of Architecture already featured a stroll through the China Academy of Art third campus in Zhuantang Town in this nice old post from 2008. Designboom has a couple of posts dedicated to Wang Shu’s installations in the Venice Bienale and the 2011 Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in Shenzen/Hong Kong. Finally, Archdaily offers a review of Shu’s figure by Pritzker member of the jury Alejandro Aravena.

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LAST UPDATES: Why Wang Shu? An article by Brendan McGetrick at Domus Web. Domus also recovered a quite complete article on the  Ningbo History Museum from their archive here.

Also, the nice people in METALOCUS decided to translate part of this post and publish it, along with the illustration, on their website.

Click to enlarge

“Porto-based architect Eduardo Souto de Moura has been named the 2011 Pritzker Prize laureate for his considerable achievements in the field of architecture and the built environment. The selection of Souto de Moura as this year’s recipient of the world’s most sought-after architectural prize marks a noticeable step away from a developing pattern of so-called ‘starchitects’. Over the last few years, the laureates have been internationally recognised figures, both in professional and public circles, such as Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry and Peter Zumthor.

This year’s winner, the Portuguese designer Souto de Moura works largely within his native country, although his 2005 Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens with Alvaro Siza (the 1992 Pritzker Prize laureate) was internationally well received. In their selection of Souto de Moura the Pritzker Prize jury panel cited numerous projects of his within Portugal, including the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, Estádio Municipal de Braga and the Burgo Office Tower in Porto.

Chairman of the jury, Lord Palumbo said: “During the past three decades, Eduardo Souto de Moura has produced a body of work that is of our time but also carries echoes of architectural traditions. His buildings have a unique ability to convey seemingly conflicting characteristics – power and modesty, bravado and subtlety, bold public authority and a sense of intimacy – at the same time.”

Over the years, 58-year-old Souto de Moura has completed more than 60 buildings in a variety of sectors from commercial to leisure, entertainment to public art, in a choice selection of European countries.The 2011 recipient’s tough, assertive style may be highly recognisable to practicing architects yet his work remains relatively unknown to those outside the field, suggesting a move away from the ‘iconic’ architecture of recent Pritzker Prize winners and the celebration of the more local, humble practitioner. One may view this diversion as a reflection on the tough economic times of late.”

(Via World Architecture News)

As a former student of his (even if just for a short period) I fealt really happy to read, through last week’s leak, that this year’s Pritzker Prize had been awarded to Eduardo Souto de Moura. As an architect, I’ve always admired the mixture of straightforwardness and poetics, of tradition and abstraction,  of texture and ethereality he imbues his buildings with. As a human being, I couldn’t help being moved by the fact that he went through a personal and professional crisis  when he realized that he could design a project over a weekend, because his practicing had evolved into a style, hence, each project was less unique.

Announcement in Archdaily, a short analysis in The Architects’ Journal, a longer one in John Hill’s  A Daily Dose of Architecture, a nice interview in Floornature, and somewhere in  the Spanish site Tectonica Blog you should find the original leak that rushed up things.


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