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Dominique Perrault wins Praemium Imperiale

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French architect Dominique Perrault has won the prestigious Praemium Imperiale award for architecture - an accolade worth around £80,000

Handed out by the Japan Art Association, the prize is the richest in the architecture industry and is part of the wider Praemium Imperiale Laureates award programme which is often hailed as the cultural ‘Nobel Prize’.

Perrault received the award from Princess Hitachi, wife of the association’s current honorary patron Prince Hitachi, at a formal ceremony in Tokyo last week (21 October).

Launched in 1988, the awards honour Japan’s late Prince Takamatsu who was the association’s honorary patron for 58 years.

Previous recipients of the architecture prize have included Steven Holl, David Chipperfield and Zaha Hadid.

Japanese graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo, German sculptor Wolfgang Laib, Japanese-born British pianist Mitsuko Uchida and French ballerina Sylvie Guillem also won awards this year.

Praemium Imperiale, architect recipients 1989-2015

2015  Dominique Perrault  
2014  Steven Holl  
2013  David Chipperfield  
2012  Henning Larsen  
2011  Ricardo Legorreta  
2010  Toyo Ito  
2009  Zaha Hadid  
2008  Peter Zumthor  
2007  Herzog & de Meuron  
2006  Frei Otto  
2005  Yoshio Taniguchi  
2004  Oscar Niemeyer  
2003  Rem Koolhaas  
2002  Norman Foster  
2001  Jean Nouvel  
2000  Richard Rogers  
1999  Fumihiko Maki  
1998  Álvaro Siza  
1997  Richard Meier  
1996  Tadao Ando  
1995  Renzo Piano  
1994  Charles Correa  
1993  Kenzo Tange  
1992  Frank Gehry  
1991  Gae Aulenti  
1990  James Stirling  
1989  I. M. Pei  


Born in Clermont-Ferrand in 1953, Perrault originally studied painting but changed his career path to become an architect at the age of 25.

His practice – Dominique Perrault Architecture – was launched in 1981 and he won the high-profile competition for the National Library of France in Paris eight years later.

Key projects following this success included the Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool in Berlin and the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg.

Dominique Perrault: full citation

Dominique Perrault is an architect who primarily steeps himself in the history, environment, and special local nature of a building’s site before going to the drawing board to design it. His innovative buildings blend into the environment without spoiling those features. Well known for his unique ideas, he sometimes embeds his buildings deep in the ground and often uses the material of ‘metal mesh’ as a key architectural feature in his works.

‘My starting point is the empty space and how to design it,’ Perrault explains. ‘We need empty spaces in our homes to make them livable. In the cityscape, this emptiness is sometimes viewed as positive, but sometimes as rather unsettling. My primary focus is on finding ways to enhance the quality of these empty spaces.’

Dominique Perrault’s answer to the philosophical dilemma of how to treat empty space is to build buildings in harmony with the special physical features of the locale and the historical background of the building site. He disagrees with the approach of some architects who seek to build eye-catching, unconventional buildings for their own sake.

‘Architecture should not be closed on itself, with its back to the context. It should always be in resonance with the environment, whether natural or urban. We architects should always think about our buildings’ place in the urban design, and about the city itself as a whole.’

  Dominique Perrault wanted to become a painter, but at the age of 25, he changed his orientation and decided to become an architect. In 1989, he won the competition of the National Library of France (completed in 1995) at the age of 36, by the decision of President Franҁois Mitterrand. He considers that the experience of painting has been useful in his work as an architect, but it has also been useful in a curious way in that he says, ‘it is something that has enabled me to lose the fear of looking at a blank page’.

Dominique Perrault's competition-winning National Library of France in Paris. Image by Rui Ornelas

Source: Image by Rui Ornelas

Dominique Perrault’s competition-winning National Library of France in Paris. Image by Rui Ornelas

The National Library of France, which brought him international renown as an architect, was full of innovative ideas. He built 100-meter towers at the four corners, buried the main body of the building underground and created: ‘At the heart of the library, a large garden; around it, a cloister, with towers, like an abbey.’ This innovative design received severe criticism at first. However, one well-known architect who lost the competition praised Perrault’s design, and the library has gradually gained a positive reputation. The interior spaces are largely created by or clad in ‘metal mesh’ materials designed by his partner, Gaëlle Lauriot-Prévost.

Since then, the two have worked together closely, engaged in such major projects as the Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool in Berlin, the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg and the Albi Grand Theatre, in Albi, France.

In the Albi Grand Theatre, they used the ‘metal mesh’ previously used mainly for interior decoration, on the exterior, to drape and cover the entire building. The theatre manifests an evolving appearance as the day progresses. In the morning, the metal mesh shines like a golden scarf and in the evening the theatre glows in a soft, brick-red color, reflecting the light emanating from the interior through the metal mesh causing the building to blend with the beautiful street of the old town filled with houses made of local brick. At the same time, the mesh protects the building from the effects of the blazing sun of the south France sun and from rainstorms. Ongoing projects include the repurposing of the Dufour Pavilion in the Palace of Versailles and the new Longchamp race track in Paris.

Among his works in Asia, Dominique Perrault designed the Noh Theatre in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, the Fukoku Tower in the Umeda business district of Osaka and the Ewha Women’s University Campus Center in Seoul, South Korea.





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