The Pritzker Architecture Prize: Recognizing Excellence in Architecture

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The Pritzker Architecture Prize, often called “architecture’s Nobel” and “the profession’s highest honour,” is awarded annually to a living architect or architect. The prize celebrates individuals whose built work showcases a remarkable blend of talent, vision, and dedication, resulting in significant and coherent contributions to humanity and the built environment through architecture.

History and Creation of the Prize

The prestigious international prize was established in 1979 by the Pritzker family of Chicago, renowned for their business interests, particularly in the Hyatt Hotels. Jay and Cindy Pritzker, the founders, envisioned the award as a means to promote public awareness of buildings and foster creativity within the architectural profession.

The Pritzker Family and their Motivation

Based in Chicago with global business ventures, the Pritzker family has a long-standing commitment to educational, technological, medical, and cultural initiatives. Growing up in the skyscraper’s birthplace, where architectural legends such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mies van der Rohe left their mark, the Pritzkers were inspired to recognize and honour outstanding architectural achievements.

Award Details

The Pritzker Architecture Prize includes a cash prize of $100,000 (US) and a distinctive bronze medallion. Since 1987, the laureate(s) have been presented with a formal citation certificate and the medal. Before 1987, each recipient also received a limited edition sculpture by Henry Moore.

Ceremony and Venue

The annual award ceremony occurs worldwide at a historically significant site, typically in May. The chosen venue underscores the value of the built environment and provides a unique backdrop for the event. The selection of the ceremony location precedes the announcement of the laureate, and there is no intentional connection between the two.

Dignitaries from the host country and international visitors and guests are invited to attend the invitation-only ceremony. The event usually commences with remarks from a host country’s representative, followed by the jury chairman’s address. Tom Pritzker, Chairman and President of the Hyatt Foundation, presents the award, and the laureate delivers an acceptance speech.

Adaptations During the Pandemic

In 2020, due to the constraints imposed by the global Covid-19 pandemic, an in-person ceremony was replaced with a special video production. This unique opportunity allowed an unlimited number of people to witness the honouring of the laureates through the international organization’s invitation.

The Symbolic Bronze Medallion

The Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate is bestowed with a bronze medallion based on the designs of Louis Sullivan, a renowned Chicago architect often referred to as the “Father of the Skyscraper.” One side of the medal bears the award’s name, while the reverse side is engraved with three words: “firmness, commodity, and pleasure.” These words reference the fundamental architectural principles of firmitas, utilitas, and venustas, as articulated by the Roman architect Vitruvius.

By recognizing excellence in architecture and honouring the achievements of exceptional architects, the Pritzker Architecture Prize continues to inspire innovation and celebrate the profound impact of architecture on society and the built environment.

Sources

Purpose. About the Prize | The Pritzker Architecture Prize. (0AD). https://www.pritzkerprize.com/about.

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