Jay and Cindy Pritzker believed that a meaningful prize would encourage and stimulate not only a greater public awareness of buildings, but also would inspire greater creativity within the architectural profession.
The prize takes its name from the Pritzker family, whose international business interests are headquartered in Chicago. Their name is synonymous with Hyatt Hotels located throughout the world. The Pritzkers have long been known for their support of educational, scientific, medical, and cultural activities. Jay A. Pritzker, (1922-1999), founded the prize with his wife, Cindy. His eldest son, Thomas J. Pritzker, the current president of The Hyatt Foundation, explains, “As native Chicagoans, it’s not surprising that our family was keenly aware of architecture, living in the birthplace of the skyscraper, a city filled with buildings designed by architectural legends such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and many others.”
He continues, “In 1967, we acquired an unfinished building which was to become the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Its soaring atrium was wildly successful and became the signature piece of our hotels around the world. It was immediately apparent that this design had a pronounced effect on the mood of our guests and attitude of our employees. While the architecture of Chicago made us cognizant of the art of architecture, our work with designing and building hotels made us aware of the impact architecture could have on human behavior. So in 1978, when we were approached with the idea of honoring living architects, we were responsive. Mom and Dad (Cindy and the late Jay A. Pritzker) believed that a meaningful prize would encourage and stimulate not only a greater public awareness of buildings, but also would inspire greater creativity within the architectural profession.”
Many of the procedures and rewards of the Pritzker Prize are modeled after the Nobel Prize. Laureates of the Pritzker Architecture Prize receive a $100,000 grant, a formal citation certificate, and since 1987, a bronze medallion. Prior to that year, a limited edition Henry Moore sculpture was presented to each Laureate.