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Wolf Prix interviewed after picking up his RIBA Jencks award

Now in its fortieth year, Wolf Prix’s practice Coop Himmelb(l)au is famous for its iconic corporate builds. He tells James Pallister why his work is still as radical as ever

Jencks Award: Wolf Prix, Visions Built 2008. 14 October, Jarvis Hall, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD

It’s only five minutes into our conversation and Wolf Prix is already talking, in derisive tones, about telephone sex. We’re in a coffee shop near his hotel – The Ritz in London – to discuss his work.

Prix is bemoaning this year’s Venice Biennale and its tenuous relationship with the act of building. ‘[Curator] Aaron Betsky’s position... was too theoretical – in German we call it Telefongeschlecht, telephone sex. One needs theory but here there was too much talking about architecture and not enough doing it,’ he says.

Prix looks dapper, in a tuxedo jacket with a silk scarf and his trademark tortoiseshellspectacles. We have around 20 minutes before he zips off to the RIBA headquarters to deliver a lecture and pick up the Jencks Award for his ‘outstanding contribution to theory and practice of architecture’. Prix says the award shows his practice is ‘part of the firmament’ and not a mere ‘shooting star’.

Prix established Coop Himmelb(l)au in 1968, a significant year for a practice known for its rebellious, form-making approach. The name forms a pun: it means both ‘blue-sky thinking’ and ‘cloud building’.

Its place in the canon was guaranteed in 1988 by its inclusion in Manhattan’s Musuem of Modern Art exhibition Deconstructivist Architecture, which grouped the practice with Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman and Zaha Hadid.

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