Renzo Piano of Italy is the 1998 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize
Renzo Piano, a 60-year-old Italian architect who builds all over the world, has been named the 1998 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the prize, the formal presentation will be made at a ceremony hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton at The White House on June 17.
In making the announcement, Jay A. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, which established the award in 1979, quoted from the jury's citation which describes Piano's architecture as a "rare melding of art, architecture, and engineering in a truly remarkable synthesis." Piano is the twenty-first architect in the world to be selected for his profession's highest honor which bestows a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion. He is the second Italian to become a Pritzker Laureate, the first being the late Aldo Rossi, who was honored in 1990.
Piano first achieved international fame for the Centre George Pompidou in Paris completed in 1978, a collaborative effort with another young architect from England, Richard Rogers. Since then, Piano has gone on to higher critical acclaim for a much wider range of building types with greater diversity and subtlety that include among many others, the Menil Museum and its Cy Twombly addition in Houston, and the Beyeler Museum in Basel, Switzerland.
On a grand scale, he designed a spectacular soccer stadium for his native Italy in Bari, an eye-popping shopping center called Bercy in Paris that has been likened to a giant space ship that has just landed. Perhaps one of his most remarkable projects is the Kansai Air Terminal, the world's largest, built on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, Japan.
Born and raised in Genoa, Italy, Piano divides his time between a home there and another in Paris when he is not traveling to the many world-wide sites of his projects. He currently is working in Berlin on the Potsdamer Platz redevelopment; in Sydney, Australia on a mixed use tower; in New Caledonia on a Cultural Center; with projects just beginning at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church in Foggia, Italy; and other continuing projects in Rome, Paris and Stuttgart.
Pritzker Prize jury chairman, J. Carter Brown, commented, "Renzo Piano's command of technology is that of a true virtuoso; yet he never allows it to command him. Deeply imbued with a sense of materials and a craftsman's intuitive feel for what they can do, his architecture embodies a rare humanism." And from fellow juror, author Ada Louise Huxtable, "Renzo Piano celebrates structure in a perfect union of technology and art." From juror Charles Correa, a much honored architect from Bombay, India, comes the praise, "He brings to each project a great seriousness of purpose, combined with a lyrical understanding of materials (and how they might come together)-so that what emerges is an architecture of extraordinary clarity and finesse." Juror Toshio Nakamura, editor and architectural writer from Japan, said, "Piano's approach to design is always imaginative and inventive, technologically oriented, yet with the hand-crafter's attention to detail. His capacity for architectural problem-solving tempered by a poetic sensibility has made possible his wide diversity of projects, from temporary exhibition halls to the world's largest air terminal, from museums to apartments, and from factories to high rise towers."
Bill Lacy, the executive director of the Pritzker Prize, quoted further from the jury citation which states, "Piano has, over three decades of his career, relentlessly searched for new dimensions in his structures, both literally and figuratively."
Lacy, who is an architect himself and president of the State University of New York at Purchase, added, "Renzo Piano's body of work is reminiscent of the Roman god Janus, represented by two conjoined heads facing in opposite directions, one looking forward, the other backward. This year's Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate embodies that dichotomy. It was appropriate on this occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Prize, to select an architect whose work is such an apt representation of the purpose of the prize."