April 7, 2008
by Canadian Architect
Jean Nouvel of Paris, France has been chosen as the 2008Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The formal ceremony for what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture’s highest honour will be held on June 2 in Washington, DC at the Library of Congress. At that time, a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion will be bestowed on the 62-year-old architect.
Nouvel, who came to international attention with the completion of his Institut du Monde Arabe (usually referred to as IMA) in 1987 as one of President Francois Mitterand’s Grands Travaux in Paris, now has several projects in the United States, including the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis completed in 2006, a 75-story tower (Tour Verre) next door to the MOMA in New York, and recently announced plans for a high rise condominium (Suncal Tower) in the Century City district of Los Angeles.
In Europe, some of his other important works are the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art (Paris 1994), the Branly Museum (Paris 2006), the Agbar Tower (Barcelona 2005), a Courthouse (Nantes 2000), a Cultural and Conference Center (Lucerne 2000), an Opera House (Lyon 1993), and Expo 2002 (Switzerland). Also currently under construction is a concert hall in Copenhagen.
Although the bulk of his work is in France, he has designed projects all over the world, including Japan, Spain, England, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Korea, Mexico, Israel, Brazil, Qatar, Lebanon, Cyprus, Iceland, UAE, Taiwan, Malaysia, Portugal, Kuwait, Morocco, Russia and the U.S. well over 200 in all.
In announcing the jury’s choice, Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, quoted from the jury citation, “Of the many phrases that might be used to describe the career of architect Jean Nouvel, foremost are those that emphasize his courageous pursuit of new ideas and his challenge of accepted norms in order to stretch the boundaries of the field.” And further, Pritzker added, “The jury acknowledged the ‘persistence, imagination, exuberance, and, above all, an insatiable urge for creative experimentation’ as qualities abundant in Nouvel’s work.”
In Nouvel’s own words, “My interest has always been in an architecture which reflects the modernity of our epoch as opposed to the rethinking of historical references. My work deals with what is happening nowour techniques and materials, what we are capable of doing today.”
Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo elaborated with more of the citation: “Since establishing his Paris based practice in the 1970s, Nouvel has pushed himself, as well as those around him, to consider new approaches to conventional architectural problems. For Nouvel, in architecture there is no “style” a priori. Rather, a context, interpreted in the broadest sense to include culture, location, program and client, provokes him to develop a different strategy for each project.”
Nouvel is the second laureate to be chosen from France, the first being Christian de Portzamparc in 1994. Although 2008 marks the 30th anniversary, he is the 32nd laureate since the prize was founded in 1979. There were two laureates chosen in 1988 and again in 2001. The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize is to honour annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.
The distinguished jury that selected Nouvel as the 2008 Laureate consists of its chairman, Lord Palumbo, internationally known architectural patron of London, chairman of the trustees, Serpentine Gallery, former chairman of the Arts Council ofGreat Britain, former chairman of the Tate Gallery Foundation, and former trustee of the Mies van der Rohe Archive at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and alphabetically: Shigeru Ban, architect and professor at Keio University, Tokyo, Japan; Rolf Fehlbaum, chairman of the board, Vitra in Basel, Switzerland; Carlos Jimenez, professor, Rice University School of Architecture, principal, Carlos Jimenez Studio in Houston, Texas; Victoria Newhouse, architectural historian and author, founder and director of the Architectural History Foundation, New York, New York; Renzo Piano, architect and Pritzker Laureate, of Paris, France and Genoa, Italy; and Karen Stein, writer, editor and architectural consultant in New York. Martha Thorne, formerly a curator of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, is executive director.
The prize presentation ceremony moves to different locations around the world each year, paying homage to historic and contemporary architecture. Last year, the ceremony was held in London at the Banqueting House, Whitehall Palace. In 2006, Istanbul, Turkey at the Dolmabahe Palace was the site. The year before, Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by 1989 Pritzker Laureate Frank Gehry, was the venue in that city’s new Millennium Park. The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia was the site in 2004. Over the years, ceremonies have been at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, Madrid, Spain; Michelangelo’s Campidoglio in Rome, Italy; Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia; the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, and The White House in Washington, DC. The list of venues goes on to include not only a great many of the great museums in the United States, but also many other countries including France, England, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Japan.
“For this, our 30th anniversary,” explains Hyatt Foundation President, Thomas Pritzker, “we thought it most appropriate to return to Washington, DC where we held the first and 20th ceremonies.”
The late Philip Johnson was the first Pritzker Laureate in 1979. The late Luis Barragn of Mexico was named in 1980. The late James Stirling of the United Kingdom was elected in 1981, Kevin Roche in 1982, Ieoh Ming Pei in 1983, and Richard Meier in 1984. Hans Hollein of Austria was the 1985 Laureate. Gottfried Bhm of Germany received the prize in 1986. The late Kenzo Tange was the first Japanese architect to receive the prize in 1987; Fumihiko Maki was the second from Japan in 1993; and Tadao Ando the third in 1995. Robert Venturi received the honour in 1991, and Alvaro Siza of Portugal in 1992. Christian de Portzamparc of France was elected Pritzker Laureate in 1994. The late Gordon Bunshaft of the United States and Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil, were named in 1988. Frank Gehry of the United States was the recipient in 1989, the late Aldo Rossi of Italy in 1990. In 1996, Rafael Moneo of Spain was the Laureate; in 1997 Sverre Fehn of Norway; in 1998 Renzo Piano of Italy, in 1999 Sir Norman Foster of the UK, and in 2000, Rem Koolhaas of the Netherlands. In 2001, two architects from Switzerland received the honour: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. Australian Glenn Murcutt received the prize in 2002. Jrn Utzon of Denmark was honoured in 2003; Zaha Hadid of the UK in 2004; and Thom Mayne of the United States in 2005. Paulo Mendes da Rocha of Brazil was the Laureate in 2006, and Richard Rogers received the prize last year.
The field of architecture was chosen by the Pritzker family because of their keen interest in building due to their involvement with developing the Hyatt Hotels around the world; also because architecture was a creative endeavor not included in the Nobel Prizes. The procedures were modeled after the Nobels, with the final selection being made by the international jury with all deliberations and voting in secret. Nominations are continuous from year to year with hundreds of nominees from countries all around the world being considered each year.