In an exclusive interview, AJ editor Christine Murray asked Pritzker Prize chief executive Martha Thorne why Souto de Moura received this year’s award
What does it mean to receive the Pritzker Prize?
The Pritzker Prize is an international award and it is conferred once a year for a body of built work that makes a contribution to humanity and embodies the art of architecture.
In popular coinage, it’s known as the Nobel Prize of architecture, and that has to do with the selection procedure, that the jury is independent and international, and with the level of excellence it awards.’
Why Eduardo Souto de Moura?
If you look at the jury citation you get a feel as to why the jury felt he was the best candidate this year. One element is that he has been very constant. He is an architect that doesn’t follow fashion. From the 1980s, when he began working, he established a direction for his architecture and research, and he’s follow that direction pretty consistently through the years.
He’s also a very complete architect, a very thoughtful designer, and a great builder. He understands materials, structure and context. And while he is an architect who is enormously sensitive to context and history, he is an architect of our time. His buildings respond to the needs of the people, and they are well built. The jury also talked about the poetry, which they felt separates good architecture from great architecture.
What is the purpose of the Pritzker Prize?
The motivation behind the Pritzker I think is to increase the discussion and the awareness of architecture within the general public. After all we all inhabit the city, we all inhabit buildings, therefore we have a vested interest in the quality of the built environment.
Another is to encourage standards of excellence within the architectural profession as inspiration to other professionals and students.
With Souto de Moura this year, the message is also that you can have a relatively small office in a city such as Porto, which could be considered at the edge, and you can still do excellent architecture that resonates with people and contributes broadly to humanity.
- Martha Thorne has been Executive Director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize since 2005. She is also the Associate Dean of External Relations at the IE School of Architecture