Parisian Architect Is Named 1994 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize
Christian de Portzamparc, a 50 year-old French architect who lives and works in Paris, has been named the seventeenth Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The Hyatt Foundation jury described Portzamparc as "a powerful poet of forms and creator of eloquent spaces," in announcing him as the sixth European architect to be selected for his profession's highest honor.
Jay A. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, which established the award in 1979, will present Portzamparc with a $100,000 grant and a bronze medal at a ceremony to be held June 14 in Columbus, Indiana—a community that boasts more buildings by world-renowned architects than any other small town. In making the announcement, Pritzker praised the choice of the jury, saying, "Portzamparc is the first French architect to be so honored. It is not only a tribute to him as an individual, but an homage as well, to the great architectural traditions of France, and particularly Le Corbusier who has forever influenced architecture everywhere."
Bill Lacy, secretary to the international panel of jurors that elects the Laureate each year, quoted from the formal citation from the jury: "Christian de Portzamparc's new architecture is of our time, bound neither by classicism nor modernism. His expanded perceptions and ideas seek answers beyond mere style. He is a part of a new generation of French architects who have incorporated the lessons of the Beaux Arts into an exuberant collage of contemporary architectural idioms, at once bold, colorful and original." Lacy, who is an architect himself and president of the State University of New York at Purchase, elaborated, "Every architect who aspires to greatness must in some sense reinvent architecture; conceive new solutions; develop a special design character; find a new aesthetic vocabulary. Portzamparc has an unusually clear and consistent vision, devising highly original spaces that serve a variety of functions."
Portzamparc, who was born in Casablanca, Morocco while his father served in the French Army there, completed his architectural degree at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris in 1969. His first commission was for a water tower in a new community, Marne-La-Vallee, located approximately 20 miles east of Paris. The water tower is unique in that it has an outer skin offine mesh open trellis work covered with climbing plants, and is modeled after the Tower of Babel. Its location in the center of town at a crossroads makes it a focal point.
Most of his completed projects are in France, the most widely publicized being the City of Music, a new music academy in the Parisian suburban park, La Villette. It is one of the Grands Projets of President Mitterrand, a program of commissioning new buildings which has stimulated an architectural renaissance in his country. The first phase of the project was completed in 1991, and the final phase is scheduled to open in January.
Portzamparc has done other projects related to music: the Erik Satie Conservatory of Music and Elderly Housing, which has been hailed as one of Paris' best examples of contextualism; and the Dance School of the Paris Opera located in Nanterre.
He has built numerous other housing developments, one of the most notable being Hautes-Formes completed in 1979 in Paris. The project consists of seven residential blocks containing 210 apartments, with a central square and arcade. His first international project was completed in Japan in 1991, four residential apartment buildings in the city of Fukuoka, an experimental district where architects of different nationalities are designing all the structures.
Portzamparc already holds his own country's highest honors in his profession—the Medal of the French Academy of Architecture; the Grand Prix National de L'Architecture; the Grand Prix d'Architecture de la Ville de Paris; and the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture.
In addition to being an architect, Portzamparc has painted since 1960, doing all of his own sketches and renderings, and sometimes murals in his completed projects. His works have been exhibited in Paris, London, Florence, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Brussels, Tokyo, and many other cities around the world. He is also a furniture designer, writer, and lecturer.
The distinguished jury that selected Portzamparc as the 1994 Laureate consists of J. Carter Brown, director emeritus of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (who is chairman of the jury and a founding member); and alphabetically, Giovanni Agnelli, chairman of Fiat from Torinol Italy; Charles Correa, architect of Bombay, India; Frank Gehry, architect and 1989 Pritzker Laureate of Los Angeles; Ada Louise Huxtable, author and architectural critic of New York; Toshio Nakamura, editor-in-chief of A+U architectural publications of Tokyo, Japan; and juror emeritus, Lord Rothschild, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Gallery of Art in London, England.