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Pritzker winners pay tribute to Otto

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Previous winners of the Pritzker Prize, including Zaha Hadid, Shigeru Ban and Renzo Piano, have paid tribute to Frei Otto

The influential German architect died just hours before it was revealed he had been recognised with the 2015 Pritzker Prize.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize brought forward its planned award announcement, which was due to be made in two weeks time, after it emerged that the 89-year-old German had died on Monday (9 March).

Shigeru Ban, 2014 Pritzker Laureate

‘Louis Kahn asked the brick, “What do you want to become, brick?”

‘The brick answered, “I want to become an arch.”

‘I think that Frei Otto was an architect who kept asking the “air” what it wanted to become.

‘He kept thinking about how to envelop “air” or “space” with the minimum of material and power.

‘He was still touching materials and drawing sketches until his last breath. His achievements, rather than just being his “works,” have become the ‘‘grammar’’ of structural design, unnoticed, and we architects are only now realizing that we unconsciously base our designs on his grammar.

‘I am truly indebted to Frei Otto, for sharing his deep understanding and inventions in the field of architecture.’

Zaha Hadid, 2004 Pritzker Laureate

‘The fluidity of Frei Otto’s work is as uplifting as it was profoundly inventive — a persuasive manifesto of nature’s logic and unity, demonstrating how architectural design and engineering can emulate nature’s morphogenesis. The more our own design research evolves, the more we learn to appreciate his pioneering works. He will continue to influence architects and engineers for generations to come.

‘We first met in Germany early in my career and he became a dear friend. His research and exploration of tensile structures was inspirational and enlightening, and his Pritzker Prize is very well deserved. Our joy of this news is some consolation for the loss of a great friend, architect, inventor, educator and gentleman. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.’ 

Frank Gehry, 1989 Pritzker Laureate

‘Frei Otto forever changed the way we think about structure and building. Through his experiments in form-finding, Otto simultaneously affirmed and questioned the conventions of engineering as we knew it, and in the process showed us unprecedented solutions to age old problems — where others saw mass as the solution, he offered lightness. Like the ancients and others that came before him, he questioned the origins of our assumptions by going back to nature and figuring it out for himself. There he found systems, networks, and surfaces that exceeded all our imaginations. He found logic in complexity, and proceeded to translate the lessons he learned into efficiently realized constructions.

‘Otto was far ahead of his time in anticipating the issues that would confront the built landscape today: population density, transience, impermanence, energy demands, the growing scale of structures, etc. It is everyone’s loss that we will not have his visionary contributions to the conversations of the day.’

Renzo Piano, 1998 Pritzker Laureate

‘Frei Otto has been one of the most seminal people on my route to architecture. By the clear determination to work on basic shelters for human communities, and exploring the movement of forces within the structure to make it visible. Celebrating lightness, and fighting against gravity. He succeeded in this and he will always be in my thoughts.’

Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron, 2001 Pritzker Laureates

‘We thought Frei Otto had been given the Pritzker Prize long ago! His work was very new and different in his time, a kind of optimistic modernism which is so dearly missing in today’s eclectic earnestness! Frei Otto’s work looks still fresh and inspiring!’

Richard Meier, 1984 Pritzker Laureate

‘Frei Otto was an architect of enormous talent and his creativity was all encompassing. In addition to his inventive work as an individual practitioner, he was an important associate to many in the field of architecture and engineering. His tremendous contributions will be appreciated and valued for a long, long time.’

Glenn Murcutt, 2002 Pritzker Laureate

‘In today’s media driven culture, too often we are presented with the architecture of novelty and or the spectacular. Architecture is not a short-term proposition; it must remain relevant over time. This year’s recipient has spent his lifetime researching, experimenting, and developing a most beautiful architecture that is timeless. It embodies the purity of lightweight shelter with structures that are economical, simple and are supremely beautiful. The lifelong work of Frei Otto has had and will continue to have a profound international influence on the thinking and work of architects.’

Previous story (AJ 11.03.15)

Obituary: Frei Otto (1925 – 2015)


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