When I first arrived in Ahmedabad, India by train nearly twenty years ago, loaded with a backpack and a collection of books from which to teach for the first time, I asked the rickshaw driver if he knew where Sangath was located. “Oh, you are looking for Doshi-ji?” he quipped. “Doshi-ji,” the ‘–ji’ signifying both respect and an honorific for an elder or person of standing, “is most important shiksak (a word suggesting teacher) and vaastulkar (architect/engineer).” That a driver in a burgeoning city of millions might recognize the location of Balkrishna Doshi’s famed atelier, as well as the man himself, did not occur to me as unusual until much later. Having known of Doshi-ji from gazing upon Chandigarh in a number of darkened classrooms as a student, I eventually made a pilgrimage to the “new”capital city of the Punjab upon arriving in India, which Doshi had managed. There he was in photos examining drawings alongside Le Corbusier, sitting at a drafting table in Paris, observing a construction site in Bangalore; his name echoed among those architects and students I met: “You must go to Ahmedabad,” they implored. I remained skeptical. And so it was two years later, when I returned to India, this time to teach at CEPT (which later became a university), an elegant brick and concrete architecture and planning school conceived and designed in part by Doshi, that I finally went to Ahmedabad. Until then, a number of my teachers had emphasized a rethinking of modernism’s legacies and impact. Such notions informed the first classes I taught at CEPT, one of the reasons I set off for South Asia in the first place. Here, without the distraction of every emerging trend, it seemed one might be able to both yield to and observe closely how and why architecture and urbanism informs the complexities of daily life. Yet it seemed I could not escape, in every discussion and desk crit, the mention of Doshi-ji. His name and his ideas are a force in a school that bears an unerring vision of moving architecture beyond the conventional dialectics of here and there, them and us. I was living and working within his vision of a holistic architecture bearing the imprint of (Indian) society’s inward turn toward the maintenance of mythmaking. Merging a landscape as much informed by cosmology as that of a not-so-ancient city’s sprawl, the school had become my center of gravity. By this time, I had sipped chai alongside the morphological experiment of the “Gufa,” or Amdavad-ni-Gufa, Doshi's collaboration with the esteemed artist MF Husain; I had walked past the stepped shelled-facades of his studio, Sangath, en route to my favorite dhaba on Drive-in Road. These were familiar landmarks. But nothing prepared me for my first meeting with the man whose presence had long preceded him. I had asked members of the school to introduce me to Doshi-ji. After a few months, I found myself sitting one very hot day in the cool hush of his studio. The atmosphere was charged with the silent attention of men and women working on drawings and models for the Diamond Exchange in Mumbai. Doshi-ji appeared and immediately asked me what buildings I had seen, what books I was reading. I rambled through a list, and soon was asked to sit with a group of young architects at the edge of a long table covered with books, our heads turned daily toward the making of drawings. However, I did not last long in Doshi-ji’s studio. Perhaps my hubris prevented a longer affiliation with him. I did not understand the devotional attention to the “guru,” to the “master” whose teachings were the stuff of legend. Did I think I could not learn from him? Even with all the time I had spent at CEPT and elsewhere that possessed his hallmark spirit, I was not immediately converted. On every occasion I was asked to participate on a design jury, Doshi-ji would glare at me or ignore me altogether. I tried to counter him with misplaced theory on multiple occasions, unsuccessfully. I have reflected on these decisions over the years. So much of what we think of the great architects and their embodiments happens after the fact, over time, even if immediacy does not negate experience. Rhetoric cannot hold sway with an architect such as Doshi, whose lifelong philosophy to educate through and by building drives an unerring attention to the built environment as a mirror of our knowledge...or lack thereof. More recently, I have had the great privilege of visiting Doshi-ji again at his model-filled studios of Sangath as well as at the exhibition of his work at Shanghai's Power Station of Art, organized by Khushnu Hoof. We laughed at my early inattentions. Our discussions have centered on the agency of the visual in relation to the question of inhabiting space as a universal and/or ethical condition. He has asked me how to move beyond the degradation of belief to imbue architecture with the capacity to transform society at multiple scales. With inspired words and aphorisms, Doshi insists on recognizing the self as inhabiting multiple contexts. His projects are intimate glances at the character of a man whose work is revolutionary for its ability to be present and to disappear at the same time. Doshi-ji, Abhinandana, Mubarak, congratulations on your extraordinary achievements and for teaching all of us how to see for ourselves. Sean Anderson is the Associate Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art.
Posts tagged with "Pritzker Prize":
For the first time, three individuals have been named as Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates: Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta. All three are from Olot in the Catalonian region of Spain; in 1988 the trio founded their firm RCR Arquitectes. The Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate is typically given to an individual. In awarding a group, the Pritzker Architecture Prize cited the following: "Their intensely collaborative way of working together, where the creative process, commitment to vision and all responsibilities are shared equally, led to the selection of the three individuals for this year’s award." Aranda, Pigem, and Vilalta are collectively the 38th winner of the prize and they will take home $100,000 as well as architecture's most prestigious honor. Recent major projects from the firm include the Bell–Lloc Winery (2007, Palamós, Girona, Spain), Soulages Museum (2014, Rodez, France), and the La Lira Theater Public Open Space (2011, Ripoll, Girona, Spain). In a press release, The Pritzker Architecture Prize cited the emotional power of the trio's architecture, as well as its site-specific sensitivity and enduring qualities:
Their work demonstrates an unyielding commitment to place and its narrative, to create spaces that are in discourse with their respective contexts. Harmonizing materiality with transparency, Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta seek connections between the exterior and interior, resulting in emotional and experiential architecture. Mr. Pritzker remarks: “The jury has selected three architects who have been working collaboratively for nearly three decades. Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr. Vilalta have had an impact on the discipline far beyond their immediate area. Their works range from public and private spaces to cultural venues and educational institutions, and their ability to intensely relate the environment specific to each site is a testament to their process and deep integrity.” Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr. Vilalta represent the first time that three architects together are honored with the prize. Their intensely collaborative way of working together, where the creative process, commitment to vision and all responsibilities are shared equally, led to the selection of the three individuals for this year’s award. As the winners of the 39th edition of the Prize, it is the second time that laureates hail from Spain, following Rafael Moneo who received the award in 1996. In response to being named the 2017 Laureates of the Pritzker Prize, Ms. Pigem states: “It is a great joy and a great responsibility. We are thrilled that this year three professionals, who work closely together in everything we do, are recognized.” The locally-based architects evoke universal identity through their creative and extensive use of modern materials including recycled steel and plastic. “They’ve demonstrated that unity of a material can lend such incredible strength and simplicity to a building,” says Glenn Murcutt, Jury Chair. “The collaboration of these three architects produces uncompromising architecture of a poetic level, representing timeless work that reflects great respect for the past, while projecting clarity that is of the present and the future.” As such, an early 20th century foundry has become their office, Barberí Laboratory (2007), and many remnants of the original building have remained, blended with highly contrasting, new elements, which were added only where essential.Last year, Alejandro Aravena won the prize. The Chilean architect, widely accoladed for proposing half houses in his home country that inhabitants completed, was known for his socially-minded approach to architecture. 2015, however, saw the Pritzker judges take a different approach. Instead of choosing a relatively young, innovative architect, Frei Otto from Germany was rewarded for his life's work, notably his tensile structures. Otto died later that year, meanwhile, Aravena, went on to direct the Venice Biennale after receiving his award, capping off a stellar year for him. Other past winners include Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Peter Zumthor, SANAA, Rem Koolhaas, Richard Meier, Frank Gehry, Richard Rogers and Phillip Johnson who won the first ever Pritzker Prize. The Prize has been running since 1979. The full announcement is available here.
Starting tonight—April 4—between 7:30pm ET and 8:00pm ET, the United Nations Headquarters is broadcasting the 2016 Pritzker Prize ceremony. The webcast is also available on webtv.un.org. You can read the Architect's Newspaper's (AN) previous coverage of his win here and AN editor-in-chief William Menking's commentary here.
What does it mean when the winner of the 2016 Pritzker Prize—Chile’s Alejandro Aravena—just came off the jury of the very same award? He was on the jury from 2009 to 2015 and all the jurors from 2015 (The Lord Palumbo (Chair), Alejandro Aravena, Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Kristin Feireiss, Glenn Murcutt, Richard Rogers, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Ratan N. Tata) were on the 2016 jury—except Aravena? Two past winners were on the jury prior to receiving the award, but won 5 years after departing. Shigeru Ban served from 2006-9 and won in 2014. While Fukihiko Maki was a juror from 1985-88 and won in 93. Aravena's quick turnaround suggests that there is an emphasis on a definition of architecture that Aravena represents and was put on the jury to make a case for…or that he is part a network that makes these decisions and leads to friends nominating friends for the prize. Is this common in the world of international awards and prizes or is this how stars are made in 2016?
Alejandro Aravena of ELEMENTAL is having a banner year. The Chilean architect—and director of the upcoming 2016 Venice Biennale—has been named the winner of the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize. He is best known for his socially-minded approach to architecture—namely housing and disaster relief. Aravena has a number of completed projects that range from “chairs” for sitting on the ground (commissioned by Vitra) to a master plan for Santiago, Chile in the aftermath of a 2010 magnitude 8.8 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. ELEMENTAL’s work with social housing includes a series of “half-finished homes,” a new model for housing designed for the poorest members of society. By leaving the units spaced, the architects allow future users to add-on and personalize their housing, which makes social housing an investment rather than simply a front-end cost. It was first tested at Quinta Monroy (completed 2003) in Iquique, Tarapacá, Chile, and was then replicated at Villa Verde (2010) in Constitución, Maule Region, Chile and their Monterrey Housing (2010) in Monterrey, Mexico. In June 2011, in an interview with AN West Coast Editor Mimi Zeiger, Aravena said: "Social housing is a question with intellectual merit. It is a tough question—a challenge, a professional challenge. We had to acccept the constraints in the market. Follow all the constraints, then your solution may be replicated. Prove the point that you can do better, then the market can imitate you. It is not about building one unit, but about building 100, because the market operates at that scale. We went for the real thing. Once you decompose the constraints—that is the good thing about being an outsider—you ask the stupid questions. When you are in a given field you are overwhelmed by the problem.” Aravena’s 2016 Biennale opens in May and will be themed "Reporting From the Front.” It aims to explore how architecture is battling in the real world to confronting the social and political issues that we are faced with today. It should pick up—to some extent— where the Chicago Biennial left off last fall. According to the Pritzker committee: Alejandro Aravena has delivered works of architectural excellence in the fields of private, public and educational commissions both in his home country and abroad.... He has undertaken projects of different scales from single-family houses to large institutional buildings.... He understands materials and construction, but also the importance of poetry and the power of architecture to communicate on many levels."
The Barack Obama Foundation has announced the seven offices from which it is requesting proposals for the design of the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago. The seven firms include four New York–based offices, one London-based office, one based in Genova, Italy, and one local Chicago office. The offices named are:
- Adjaye Associates of London, headed by David Adjaye
- Diller Scofidio + Renfro
- SHoP Architects
- Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
- Renzo Piano Building Workshop
- John Ronan Architects
Get out your calendars. As The Chicago Architecture Biennial draws near to its October 3 debut, the festival's organizers have released a list of events and public programs that should help fill out your social schedule into December. You can peruse the whole list of events on the biennial's website. Features include lectures by Pritzker Prize–winning architects (like Thom Mayne); tours of Frank Lloyd Wright's SC Johnson Campus (which just opened for tours for the first time since its construction in 1950); and a film series exploring "architecture through the lens of cinema." The full list of biennial participants was released last month.
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? Local Catalonia radio station RAC1, reported that Antoni Gaudi—already known as “God’s Architect”—could be beatified within the next year by Pope Francis, making him the patron saint of architects. The Local, an English-language news outlet in Europe, reported, "the campaign has been headed by the Pro Beatification for Antoni Gaudí Association, who for the past ten years worked hand in hand with the Vatican compiling hundreds of documents about Gaudi’s life and testimonies by those who knew him.” Gaudi was born in the mid-19th century in Catalonia and went on to create some of Barcelona's most celebrated work. If you're not familiar with his work, ask your cousin who went on the free Gaudi walking tour while studying abroad. Beatification is the third step out of four in the full canonization process, but as the Local noted, while Gaudi will probably reach the veneration stage, "the fact that there’s no proof yet he carried out a miracle may prevent him from being fully canonized.” With construction on one of Gaudi's most famous landmarks—the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona—carrying on now for some 132 years, there's no word yet from Vatican officials as to whether simply finishing the cathedral will count as a miracle. [h/t Huffington Post.]
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. After graduate school, Hollein worked for architecture firms in the U.S. and Sweden, finally settling back in Vienna in 1965, where he completed his first solo commission, the Retti Candleshop, a small project that nonetheless won him international attention. He went on to design other significant projects, including the Richard L. Feigen Gallery in New York (1967–1969), the jeweler’s shop Schullin I and II (1972–1974, 1981–1982) and the “Section N” furniture shop (1971–1972) in Vienna, the Austrian Travel Agency in the Opernringhof (1976–1978) with its soon renowned ceiling-high brass palms as quotes of travelling, the interior design of the Museum of Glass and Ceramics in Tehran (1977–1978), and the New York branch of the Munich fashion house Ludwig Beck in the Trump Tower (1981–1983). Hollein regarded himself as an artist and theorist who rejected all divisions between the various fields from the very start. He designed art objects, exhibition designs (The Turks at the Gates of Vienna, 1983; Dream and Reality, Vienna 1870–1930, 1985, both in the Künstlerhaus Wien), stage sets (such as for Arthur Schnitzler’s Seduction Comedy at the Burgtheater), furniture, jewelry, door handles, glasses, lamps, and watches (for Alessi, Munari, a.o.). His favorite maxim was, “Everything is architecture.” In 1972, he represented Austria at the Venice Biennale with his installation Work and Behavior, Life and Death, Everyday Situations. He was Austria’s commissioner for the Venice Art Biennale from 1978 to 1990 and commissioner of the Venice Biennale for Architecture in 1991, 1996, and 2000, as well as its director in 1996. As guest professor at numerous American universities, professor at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (1967–1976), and head of the masterclasses for industrial design (1976–1979) and architecture (1979–2002) at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna Hollein was also highly esteemed as a teacher. Hollein also designed museums. The Abteiberg Museum in Mönchengladbach (1972–1982) set new standards in the field. The building realized for the Museum of Modern Art Frankfurt (1983–1991) is equally sensational. He also designed the spectacular, prize-winning, yet ultimately unrealized scheme for the Guggenheim Museum in Salzburg’s Mönchsberg (1989). The same was the case with the Guggenheim Museum planned for Vienna (1994–1995). Hollein’s further competition designs include his submissions for the New National Theatre of Japan (1986, second place), the Wald Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (1987–1988, second place), das Compton Verrney Opera House (1988–1989, second place), the Guangdong Museum for Arts and Nature in Guangzhou (2004), the Sheik Zyed National Museum in Abu Dhabi (2007), and the Meixi Lake International Culture and Arts Center in Changsha, China (2011). Hollein’s entire body of work is characterized by the presence of quotations, like the outsized tobacco leaf on the facade of his tobacconist’s front near the Haas House (1991–1994), the palms in the Austrian Travel Agency office, or the often recurring columns, which earned him the "postmodern" label.
The Pritzker Architecture Prize has named Shigeru Ban its 2014 laureate. AN executive editor Alan G. Brake sat down with Ban at the Metal Shutter Houses, a luxury apartment building he designed in Manhattan’s Chelsea gallery district. He discussed influences from California to Finland, the social role of architecture, and what the recognition means for his work. As a former Pritzker juror did you ever expect to be in the position of being a laureate yourself? Not this soon. Also I know I have not made such achievements yet compared to other laureates, so I was not expecting it at all. You are considerably younger than some of the other laureates; tell me where you see yourself in terms of your career. I knew about the reason why I was chosen, and I knew that the reason was quite different from other laureates. It was an encouragement for me to continue to do the kind of social work as well as making projects like museums and others, so I try to keep a balance between other kinds of projects and working in disaster areas. So I’m taking it as an encouragement rather than the award was for such achievement. How did you first begin working in disaster areas? After I became an architect I was quite disappointed in our profession because we are mainly working for privileged people. Even historically this is the same, because money and power are invisible people with money and power hire architects to make a monument—to visualize their power and money for the public. I thought we could solve more for the public, for society, but it was not so. I thought there was an opportunity for me to use my experience, my knowledge for the difficult situations, like natural disasters—though I must say natural disasters are no longer natural. It’s our responsibility, and there were no architects working in disaster situations, because we are too busy working for the privileged. I’m not saying I’m not interested in making monuments, but, as I said, I wanted to use my knowledge and experience to help the people who lost their houses. And I thought we might make even better temporary housing. So the first time I started working in Rwanda in 1994 after the crisis, I proposed the idea of using cardboard tubes, paper tubes for the shelter construction for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. I was contracted to develop this idea further. Do you see other architects beginning to work in this field? Especially in the Northern Japan earthquake and tsunami, many architects started working in the disaster area. But when I was working in Kobe in 1995 there was no one. Also, when I give lectures in many different countries, I get a good reaction from younger architects and from students. They are interested in our activities, they want to join us. The situation is changing. Is that something that you feel is part of your role as an architect, to pull the profession more toward social issues or more toward everyday people? Yes, yes, I do. There’s a wonderful sense of invention in your work and every project is approached in a new way. Can you talk about how you begin? Actually, I don’t invent anything new. I always use an existing material in a new way. Paper tubes are not a new material. In this building we have metal shutters. This is an existing material. So I try to use existing materials differently, with more meaning or more function, instead of just inventing something new. It’s also interesting, learning from context, using local materials. And I always look for a problem to solve through design, instead of making some sculpture. How do you approach space or structure, some of the other fundamental aspects of architecture? Even as a student, I hated to be influenced by others. Always there’s a fashionable style, Baroque, or neoclassicism, or postmodernism. I didn’t like being influenced by the fashionable style, the style of the day. But in history I looked at Buckminster Fuller or Frei Otto, they made their own structural system or developed their own materials to make their own kind architecture. I was dreaming as a student to make my own structural system, this is why when I started using the paper tubes, made of recycled cardboard, even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes, but my buildings made of paper tubes can be permanent. I thought by using weaker materials or humble materials I can make some different type of architecture, taking advantage of the weakness of the material. With steel, it’s very flexible and strong. You can make any shape. With a paper tube, it’s so weak, and you can’t make just any form out of it. You have to find out what is an appropriate way of using it. Louis Kahn used to always ask his students, in his famous lecture, “Mr. Brick, what do you want to be?” And he said, “I want to be an arch.” So with the paper tube, which is a weak material, I have to find an appropriate way of using it. You can’t make everything from paper tubes. It’s not a perfect material. The limitations give me the idea to make an appropriate form out of this kind of material. Looking back on your career thus far, what are the breakthrough buildings for you in terms of developing your thinking about architecture? The Kobe project was kind of an important project for me, in terms of deciding my life’s work on disaster relief work, but I suppose for an architecture style or system, in the earlier period I designed a number of low cost houses, I called them “case study houses.” After I finished high school I came to the U.S. and the first school I went to was Sci-Arc in California. I fell in love with the so-called Case Study Houses, and Schindler, Neutra, Craig Ellwood, and so on. And I felt they had some Japanese influence. Because I didn’t study architecture in Japan, my first kind of Japanese influence came through those Case Study Houses. So in my early period I designed the so-called Curtain Wall House, the Walrus House, the Naked House, the House with a Double Roof. Many of these were low-cost housing with a special way of using an existing material or making a space connect to the inside/outside, so those case study houses helped to make my direction. Because before that I had some influence from Cooper Union, some influence from John Hejduk and the New York Five. But in order to get out from this movement from my school, I started to use the structure and development of materials to establish my own style. So this interest and approach to materials has really been there from the beginning. Yes, yes. Because in the beginning I was working on low-cost houses, I didn’t want to make a cheap house. So working with humble materials I could make something interesting instead of just making a cheap house with a low budget. That’s why I had some ideas of using everyday, low-cost materials differently. You are now the seventh Japanese laureate. That speaks very highly of the culture of architecture in Japan. Can you talk a bit about what you draw from Japanese architecture culture and how you deviate from it? First of all, I don’t know if I should be considered a Japanese architect, because I didn’t go to school in Japan and I’m working every where in the world, and also I’m not part of any school in Japan, and I don’t just mean universities. In Japan there are many schools, the Tange School, for example. And I didn’t work for any Japanese architects, except I worked for Isosaki for one year when I was a student. It was an internship almost. So I’m not part of this society. I didn’t have any public projects. The first opportunity came from France, the Pompidou Centre, and from the U.S., the Aspen Art Museum, and so all of those former Japanese laureates became very famous in Japan, they made public projects and then they started working abroad. But my case is different. Why did you decide to study in the U.S.? When I was in high school, when I was seventeen, I happened to see the Japanese architecture magazine A+U, they had a special feature on John Hejduk and Cooper Union, and I was amazed by his work. So that is why I came to the U.S., without speaking English. But there was no information, no internet, so I had to come to the U.S. to find out that Cooper Union does not accept foreign students. But I found out I could apply as a transfer student, so I had to look for a school I could enter and transfer to Cooper. I happened to find SCI-Arc. It was a brand new school, maybe three years old, founded by Raymond Kappe. It was very exciting how they renovated an old factory into the studio, so I applied, and I was very lucky to be interviewed by Ray Kappe. I didn’t speak English very well and he was very kind to accept me, and then after two and a half years I applied to Cooper Union. What did you do after you graduated? Well, I couldn’t graduate immediately because I had a big fight with Peter Eisenman, and so I had to extend my thesis. But I went back to Japan and began working for a very famous Japanese photographer, Yukio Futagawa, as his assistant. And I went with him to Europe, to visit Alvar Aalto’s projects, which I wasn’t interested in at all at Cooper Union. When I went to Finland to see Aalto it was a big shock to me; his use of local climate, of materials, his craftsmanship. Also, I organized an Aalto exhibition in Japan—and that was when I began working with paper tubes, because wood was too expensive. What was it that was so eye opening? The Villa Mairea. It’s in harmony with the climate, the context, and it takes advantage of many different kinds of warm materials, and also light. The light was so beautiful. But you know, in the International Style context was not so important nor was using natural materials, so Aalto’s was a completely different kind of architecture. How did you get your first project? After I finished at Cooper Union I wanted to go to graduate school in the U.S., but my mother asked me to design a small building for her boutique, so I decided to go back to Japan just to finish my mother’s building before coming back to the U.S., but I also organized three exhibitions, including the one on Alvar Aalto, which was brought from MoMA. And while I was doing these exhibition designs and working on the building for my mother, I started working on a small villa project and I became too busy, so I gave up coming back to the U.S. Also, it’s interesting in Japan, Japan is the only country, where even the middle class people hire architects to design even a small house. In a developing country or in a developed country, rich people hire architects to design big houses, but in Japan there is so much opportunity for young architects to design small houses. That’s really great training for us. Obviously your interest in disaster relief housing has been very important to you and very important to architecture. What are some other areas where architects should be doing more? I think in education. Many famous architects don’t teach, but I think teaching is very important. For me I had Raymond Kappe, Tod Williams, Ricardo Scofidio, Diana Agrest, Bernard Tschumi, John Hejduk. It was an incredible experience. And I can’t give them anything back, the only thing I can do is give the same thing to the younger generation. If I didn’t have great professors, I wouldn’t be here.
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 Letter from the Chair of the 2013 Jury of The Pritzker Architecture Prize on Behalf of the Jury June 14, 2013 Ms. Arielle Assouline-Lichten, Ms. Caroline James, Women in Design Harvard Graduate School of Design Cambridge, MA 02138 Dear Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Caroline James, Thank you for sending your petitions and letters, and those of others, about Ms. Denise Scott Brown and the Pritzker Architecture Prize. 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. A later jury cannot re-open, or second guess the work of an earlier jury, and none has ever done so. 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. Ms. Scott Brown has a long and distinguished career of architectural accomplishment. It will be up to present and future juries to determine who among the many architects practicing throughout the world receives future awards. Not every knowledgeable observer always agrees with the jury’s selection. But the jury will continue to do its best to select solely upon the basis of the quality of the architect’s record. That said, we should like to thank you for calling directly to our attention a more general problem, namely that of assuring women a fair and equal place within the profession. To provide that assurance is, of course, an obligation embraced by every part of the profession, from the schools that might first encourage students to enter the profession to the architectural firms that must facilitate the ability of women to fulfill their potential as architects. We believe that one particular role that the Pritzker Jury must fulfill, in this respect, is that of keeping in mind the fact that certain recommendations or discussions relating to architectural creation are often a reflection of particular times or places, which may reflect cultural biases that underplay a woman’s role in the creative process. Where this occurs, we must, and we do, take such matters into account. Your communications remind us of this obligation, and we appreciate your sending them. Insofar, however, as they ask us to reopen the decision-making process of a previous jury, we cannot do so. Yours sincerely, Lord Peter Palumbo Chair, On behalf of the Jury of the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize
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. Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle (MS&R) led the renovation of VSBA’s 3501 Market Street, formally the Institute of Scientific Information, and the adjacent building at 3401 Filbert Street (designed by Bower, Lewis & Thrower). Pritzker-winner Robert Venturi and his wife and partner, Denise Scott Brown, famously called their buildings “decorated sheds,” a phrase intended to reflect a design philosophy that spaces should adapt to a variety of uses—hence, making Drexel's decision to overhaul the interior of 3501 Market in keeping with the architecture duo’s original intent for the building. MS&R re-imagined the vast blank floor plan, but the firm was careful not to meddle with Venturi’s colorful mosaic facade. The firm radically changed the 140,000-square-foot facility—creating a dynamic maze of stairways and beams that spill into a number of different work spaces that house a music recording studio, a video game design lab, a printing studio, and a television broadcast production facility. Richard A. Hayne, a member of the board of trustees and the CEO of the Philadelphia-based brand Urban Outfitters, donated $25 million to Drexel to buy the building. The university raised the remaining $47 million to fund construction costs.