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Herzog & de Meuron wins 2015 RIBA Jencks Award

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Herzog & de Meuron, hailed as a champion in ‘the global search for an architecture of pluralism’, has won the 2015 RIBA Jencks Award

The annual award is handed to an individual or practice that has made a major contribution to the theory and practice of architecture.

Practice founders Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron will pick up the £1,000 accolade at a public lecture chaired by Charles Jencks at the RIBA’s Portland Place HQ on 29 October.

They set up Basel-based Herzog and de Meuron in 1978, and have since picked up the Pritzker Prize, the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, and the Praemium Imperiale.

The practice won the Stirling Prize in 2003 for its Laban Dance centre.

On winning the 2015 RIBA Jencks Award, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron said: ‘We feel especially happy about that prize since it honours theory as well as practice.

‘Despite the many texts and books we have published, we still have doubts about the longevity of texts written by architects. The title of a few books may be remembered over time - the relevance of their content, though, ages faster than expected… We therefore always did our best to not to separate theory from the built work.

The relevance of architects’ texts ages faster than expected

‘Buildings don’t follow theory but yes: the best buildings always allow for theoretical interpretations of all kinds.’

The judging panel, which was chaired by RIBA director of education David Gloster, included Charles Jencks, RIBA president Stephen Hodder, Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peynton-Jones, and Architectural Association director Brett Steele.

Hodder commented: ‘The contribution to our profession from Jacques and Pierre is constantly profound.

‘The innovative ways in which they explore and reinterpret is evident in their numerous projects, from the 2003 Stirling Prize winner Laban Centre in London to the multi-layered intersection of architecture, archaeology and art that was the 2012 Serpentine Pavilion. In a remarkable career that has included notable projects such as the acclaimed spaces of the Tate Modern and the 2009 Lubetkin Prize winner National Stadium in Beijing, they have garnered public recognition and acclaim by their peers in the form of prestigious awards such as the 2001 Pritzker Prize and 2007 Royal Gold Medal.’

He added: ‘For the past four decades, Herzog & de Meuron’s work has revealed a constant ability to innovate and apply unique interpretations of architectural theory into practice that make them the unquestionable winners of this herzogheyear’s RIBA Jencks Award.’

Previous winners of the award include architects Benedetta Tagliabue, Rem Koolhaas, Stephen Holl and Zaha Hadid.

Charles Jencks’ citation

‘Herzog & de Meuron have the widest approach to architecture varying their style for each job. In this sense they epitomise the global search for an architecture of pluralism, one flexible enough for very different cultures. While a recognisable attitude runs through the work, and a commitment to intelligent design, it is the creative flexibility which stands out above other practices today. The high quality of the work is as notable as the wit; the amount of production as much as its personality.

Their conceptual innovations combined with high turnover are highly risky

‘This is due partly to their working methods, of dividing a large office of more than 400 into small, highly motivated design teams and creating the collegial atmosphere of a research institute. Their conceptual innovations combined with high turnover are highly risky, yet they have continued to produce architecture of the highest standard: rigorous and iconic, and plain or ornamented depending on the task at hand.

‘Their small medical work REHAB is exemplary; the open-access Schaulager Museum is interesting and provocative, and the VitraHaus is funny, mordant, and to the point. Herzog & de Meuron deserve a lifetime award as a local Basel office and a global practice. They seem to have finally squared the circle of large-scale architectural production.’


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