About a week ago, Shigeru Ban was announced as the 2014 Pritzker Laureate. Established in 1979 by Jay and Cindy Pritzker, the yearly award honors a living architect for "whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture." The Pritzkers, native Chicagoans, made a fortune at the helm of the Hyatt hotel chain, and modeled the award on the Nobel prizes. Laureates receive a $100,000 cash prize and a bronze medallion.
In the past, the award has mostly honored older (at least in their sixties) architects for producing a solid collection of major buildings, pushing forward the field through form and theory. It's always been a sort of inside-baseball prize, for "architect's architects", those of weighty monographs and leaky roofs. Some, like Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid, were better known for their writings and drawings, and used the validation of the prize to win some major commissions. Grumblers referred to them as "paper architects," more famous for unbuildable, extravagant thought experiments than built work. Ban has turned that sly derogative on its head, rising to acclaim because many of his buildings are literally made from paper.Read More