Tate Modern architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron made it a first for Switzerland when they landed the prestigious Pritzker Prize. It is the ninth year in a row that the American laureate has gone outside the US.The architects will pick up a cheque for US$100,000 on 7 May.
It is unusual for more than one architect to receive the award, but the jury decided that 'their work is the result of a long-term, true collaboration, making it impossible to honour one without the other'. The six jurors, including the UK's Lord Rothschild, were also impressed by the way the pair blend tradition with technology.
'The architecture of Herzog and de Meuron combines the artistry of an age-old profession with the fresh approach of a new century's technical capabilities, ' says the citation. 'Both architects' roots in European tradition are combined with current technology in extraordinarily inventive architectural solutions to their clients' needs.'
Jurors were also impressed by the way Herzog and de Meuron use materials, including the practice of printing photographs onto concrete.
'The work of Herzog and de Meuron is at once new and timeless, subtle and radical, understated and experimental. They refine the traditions of modernism to elemental simplicity, while transforming materials and surfaces through the exploration of new treatments and techniques.
'This is an art of reduction and enrichment that moves architecture to new levels of experience and effect, ' said author and critic Ada Louise Huxtable, one of the jurors.
Both architects were born in 1950, and opened their practice in Basel in 1978. Since then their practice has grown to employ 120 people, with offices in London, Munich and California. Having worked on factory buildings, apartment blocks and a winery in the Napa Valley, California, the practice now has a number of cultural buildings on its books, including the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Oscar Dominguez Museum and Cultural Centre in Tenerife, and an extension to the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis.
Previous winners of the Pritzker Prize include Robert Venturi, Christian de Portzamparc and Tadao Ando. The last time joint winners were announced was in 1988 when Brazil's Oscar Niemeyer and Gordon Bunshaft from the US won the prize.More than 500 nominations are received from 40 countries each year.