March 29, 2011
by Canadian Architect
Eduardo Souto de Moura, a 58-year-old architect from Portugal, is the jury’s choice for the 2011 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The formal ceremony for what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture’s highest honour will be in one of Washington, DC’s finest classical buildings, the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on June 2, 2011.
In announcing the jury’s choice, Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, elaborated, “This marks the second time in the history of the prize that a Portuguese architect has been chosen. The first was in 1992 when Alvaro Siza was so honoured.”
The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, 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 laureates receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.
Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo, spoke from his home in the United Kingdom, quoting from the jury citation that focuses on the reasons for this year’s choice: “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.” And further, “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.”
As a student, Souto de Moura worked for Alvaro Siza for five years. Since forming his own office in 1980, Souto de Moura has completed well over 60 projects, most in his native Portugal, but he has designs in Spain, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom and Switzerland. The projects include single-family homes, a cinema, shopping centres, hotels, apartments, offices, art galleries and museums, schools, sports facilities and subways.
His stadium in Braga, Portugal was the site of European soccer championships when it was completed in 2004, and gained high praise. Nearly a million and a half cubic yards of granite were blasted from the site and crushed to make concrete for the stadium. Precise explosions of a mountainside created a 100-foot-high granite face that terminates one end of the stadium. Souto de Moura describes this coexistence of the natural with the manmade construction as good architecture. In his own words, “It was a drama to break down the mountain and make concrete from the stone.” The jury citation calls this work, “…muscular, monumental and very much at home within its powerful landscape.”
Another of his projects, the Burgo Tower, completed in 2007, constructed in the city where he lives and works, Porto, Portugal, is described by the jury as, “…two buildings side by side, one vertical and one horizontal with different scales, in dialogue with each other and the urban landscape.” Souto de Moura commented that “a 20-storey office tower is an unusual project for me. I began my career building single-family houses.”
Souto de Moura has designed numerous residences, one of which, House Number Two – built in the town of Bom Jesus, was singled out by the jury for its “uncommon richness throughout the subtle banding in the concrete of its exterior walls.” Souto de Moura’s comments on the project: “Because the site was a fairly steep hill overlooking the city of Braga, we decided not to produce a large volume resting on a hilltop. Instead, we made the construction on five terraces with retainer walls, with a different function defined for each terrace – fruit trees on the lowest level, a swimming pool on the next, the main parts of the house on the next, bedrooms on the fourth, and on the top, we planted a forest.”
Another project in his native city, Porto, is the Cultural Centre completed in 1991, which the jury describes as “a testament to his ability to combine materials expressively.” He used copper, stone, concrete and wood.
A convent and monastery in a mountainous terrain near Amares, Portugal, called Santa Maria do Bouro was a project for Souto de Moura from 1989 to 1997, in which he converted the centuries-old structure into a state inn. He recalls the walls were over four feet thick. Originally built in the 12th century, the jury declares in their citation that Souto de Moura “has created spaces that are both consistent with their history and modern in conception.”
Souto de Moura, in describing another of his projects, has said, “After the painter Paulo Regio chose me as her architect, I was lucky to be able to choose the site. It was a fenced off forest with some open space in the middle. On the basis of the elevation of the trees, I proposed a set of volumes of varying heights. Developing this play between the artificial and nature helped define the exterior colour, red concrete, a colour in opposition to the green forest. Two large pyramids along the entrance axis prevent the project from being a neutral sum of boxes.” The Paulo Regio Museum completed in 2008, is cited by the jury as “both civic and intimate, and so appropriate for the display of art.”
Often described as a “Miesian architect,” the jury acknowledged this influence with the words, “He has the confidence to use stone that is a thousand years old or to take inspiration from a modern detail by Mies van der Rohe.”
Upon learning that he was being honoured, Souto de Moura had this reaction: “When I received the phone call telling me I was to be the Pritzker Laureate, I could hardly believe it. Then I received confirmation that it was actually true, and I came to realize what a great honour this is. The fact that this is the second time a Portuguese architect has been chosen makes it even more important.”
The distinguished jury that selected the 2011 Pritzker Laureate consists of its chairman, The Lord Palumbo, internationally known architectural patron of London, chairman of the trustees, Serpentine Gallery, former chairman of the Arts Council of Great 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: Alejandro Aravena, architect and executive director of Elemental in Santiago, Chile; Carlos Jimenez, professor, Rice University School of Architecture, principal, Carlos Jimenez Studio in Houston, Texas; Glenn Murcutt, architect and 2002 Pritzker Laureate of Sydney, Australia; Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, professor and author of Helsinki, Finland; Renzo Piano, architect and 1998 Pritzker Laureate, of Paris, France and Genoa, Italy; and Karen Stein, writer, editor and architectural consultant in New York. Martha Thorne, associate dean for external relations, IE School of Architecture, Madrid, Spain, is the executive director of the prize.
In addition to the previous laureates already mentioned, the late Philip Johnson was the first Pritzker Laureate in 1979. The late Luis Barragán 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 Böhm of Germany received the prize in 1986. 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. 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 the late 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. Australian Glenn Murcutt received the prize in 2002. The late Jørn 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 in 2007. Jean Nouvel of France was the Laureate in 2008. In 2009, Peter Zumthor of Switzerland received the award and last year, two Japanese architects were honoured, partners Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA, Inc.
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; and because architecture was a creative endeavor not included in the Nobel Prizes. The procedures were modelled 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.
The site for this year’s ceremony, the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium was erected between 1932 and 1934, and is part of a large nine-building office complex called the Federal Triangle. At the time of its construction, it was the largest government-owned assembly space in the city, and considered as one of the most magnificent settings for government ceremonies. It was designed by San Francisco-based architect Arthur Brown, Jr. Originally called the Departmental Auditorium, it was renamed the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in 1987.
eduardo souto de moura