Sou Fujimoto's Marcus Prize Pavilion transforms brick into a playfully light material

(Courtesy University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

(Courtesy University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

The Marcus Prize is awarded bi-annually to an emerging architect in the early stages of his or her career. Hosted by the the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee School of Architecture & Urban Planning and supported by the Milwaukee-based Marcus Foundation, it has a record of supporting talented young practices before they become well know including: Winy Maas (2005), Frank Barkow (2007), Alejandro Aravena (2010), and Diebedo Francis Kere (2011).


(Courtesy University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

The studios have traditionally built small public pavilions in Milwaukee in the spring semester of the award. The 2013 winner was Sou Fujimoto from Japan.(Full disclosure: I was on the 2013 jury.) Like the other winners, his studio built a temporary pavilion, faBrick Pavilion, in an undeveloped lot this past summer. Built with UMW professor Mo Zell and university students, this brick installation pays homage to the city’s long tradition of masonry construction. It also attempts to transform the typically heavy and cumbersome material into something more malleable, playful, and lighter on the ground.

FaBrick creates flowing arches in a way that “form a rippling brick carpet that invites human interaction and exploration” and appears almost supple as a material. Finally, the brick (with connecting wood struts) wants to challenge how we sit, stand, lean and move. With the grass growing up through the lattice of bricks, the pavilion allows nature in the lot to re-assert itself.

The Marcus Prize is only in its 10th bi-annual year, but has been such a success in what it has produced and who it has helped that it should be as well known as its Chicago neighbor, the Pritzker Prize. The award is for $100,000 with $50,000 of this going to the winner and an additional $50,000 put forward for the winner to lead a design studio in collaboration with UWM faculty.

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