The Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded annually “to honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment
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, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.” Founded in 1979 by Jay A. Pritzker and his wife Cindy, the award is funded by the Pritzker family and sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation. It is considered to be one of the world’s premier architecture prizes, and is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture.
The prize is said to be awarded “irrespective of nationality, race, creed, or ideology.” The recipients receive US$100,000, a citation certificate, and since 1987, a bronze medallion. The designs on the medal are inspired by the work of architect Louis Sullivan, while the Latin inspired inscription on the reverse of the medallion—firmitas, utilitas, venustas (English: firmness, commodity and delight)—is from Ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. Before 1987, a limited edition Henry Moore sculpture accompanied the monetary prize.
The Executive Director of the prize, Martha Thorne, solicits nominations from a range of people, including past Laureates, academics, critics and others “with expertise and interest in the field of architecture”. Any licensed architect can also make a personal application for the prize before 1 November every year. In 1988 Gordon Bunshaft nominated himself for the award and eventually won it. The jury, each year consisting of five to nine “experts … recognized professionals in their own fields of architecture, business, education, publishing, and culture”, deliberate early the following year before announcing the winner in spring. The prize Chair is 2002 winner, Glenn Murcutt; earlier chairs were J. Carter Brown (1979–2002) sale goalkeeper gloves, the Lord Rothschild (2003–2004), and the Lord Palumbo (2005-2015).
In 2013, “Women in Design”, a student organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Design started a petition on behalf of Denise Scott Brown to receive joint recognition with her partner, past prize winner Robert Venturi bpa free glass bottles, furthering a debate about sexism in architecture. The petition, according to The New York Times has “reignited long-simmering tensions in the architectural world over whether women have been consistently denied the standing they deserve in a field whose most prestigious award was not given to a woman until 2004, when Zaha Hadid won.” Although the petition received international support of several past recipients, the jury said that it cannot revisit the work of past juries, in order to acknowledge the work of Denise Scott Brown and Lu Wenyu, both women and equal partners to their spouses Venturi and Wang Shu, who won in 1991 and 2012 respectively. Scott Brown told CNN that “as a woman, she had felt excluded by the elite of architecture throughout her career,” and that “the Pritzker Prize was based on the fallacy that great architecture was the work of a ‘single lone male genius’ at the expense of collaborative work.”
Inaugural winner Philip Johnson was cited “for 50 years of imagination and vitality embodied in a myriad of museums, theaters, libraries, houses, gardens and corporate structures”. The 2004 laureate Zaha Hadid was the first female prize winner. Ryue Nishizawa became the youngest winner in 2010 at age 44. Partners in architecture (in 2001, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, and in 2010, Kazuyo Sejima and Nishizawa) have shared the award. In 1988, Gordon Bunshaft and Oscar Niemeyer were both separately honored with the award. The most recent winners, in 2017, are the Spanish architects Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramón Vilalta. This was the first time three architects shared the prize.