Sponsored by The Hyatt Foundation

Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Glenn Murcutt

Mayor Veltroni, distinguished guests, friends, fellow architects, ladies and gentlemen. To Mrs. Pritzker, the Pritzker family, and members of the Hyatt Foundation, you have honored me with the 2002 Pritzker Architecture Prize, and I cannot tell you just how happy I am to be receiving it. Thank you.

On entering private practice in late 1969, my father said, “son, remember, you must start off the way you would like to finish.” And he added, “for every compromise you knowingly make, the resultant work will represent your next client.” Tough yet good advice.

Although I have worked as a sole practitioner without staff now for nearly 32 years, I am supported by many others who have contributed to my love of architecture. To fail to recognize those people would be unjust. Mies van der Rohe said, and I quote, that “with every good building, there was a very good client.”

I have had so many wonderful clients throughout my career. There are others today that have to wait for more than three years for me to start work on their projects. I have worked with two engineers, a father and his son, and how could our thinking be realized without fine builders. There are writers, photographers and academics, fellow architects, architecture schools in Argentina, Chile, Denmark, Finland, the United States of America, and Australia, collaborators including my wife and family. Each has been wonderfully supportive and many are here this afternoon to celebrate with me this incredible event. Thank you, all of you. And what more wonderful a space and place could there be to celebrate this event than the Campidoglio in Rome? Just how fortunate can one be? The jury each year considers hundreds of architects for the Pritzker Prize, many of whom are worthy of receiving it. But, on the whole, only one is selected. That’s how fortunate one can be.

As you may imagine, I’ve had hundreds of interviews, letters and telephone calls of wonderful support, but I cannot tell you how many times it has been said, “congratulations also go to the Jury.” I start to wonder just whose prize is this? Yet such awards tell us much about the jury as it does about the recipient. I am fully aware of the effort and feelings of responsibility borne by each jury member for such a prize.

To each member of this year’s Pritzker Prize Jury, I am honored, greatly honored, to have been considered worthy of this prize. It is humbling to become a Pritzker Laureate. I join recipients for whom I have the deepest respect, and today, several I count as great friends. And this afternoon, they are here, as each of you, in my honor. Thank you.

I grew up in Sydney about seven kilometers north of the city. The landscape was typical of the coastal Sydney sandstone basin with its abundance of eucalyptus and other remarkable native Australian plants. In this environment, I learned about the propagation of the flora. I learned about which plants grew where, and which drew the superb native birds, insects and animals. I learned about how a particular species of plants grew differently, very differently, from the lowlands where the water table was higher, where the wind pressures were less, where the nutrients were greater from the very same type of plant at the top of a hill which was shaped by wind shear, less moisture and few nutrients. This was about place, and was, for me, extremely important. I learned about the strength, the delicacy, and the transparency of much of the Australian landscapes, where the clarity of the light level separates the elements compared to much of Europe where the light level serves to connect those elements in the landscape. This gave me a clearer understanding of the legibility of elements, of structure and delicacy within the Australian landscape which has informed my work.

I grew up in a family of five children. There were seven pianos in a house of three levels. The noise was terrible. There was always something being designed and built around the house—canoes, racing skiffs, houses. I learned I needed silence, much silence, to work. This was a very important lesson for me. The amount of noise made me want silence.

I was conscripted to the joinery shop of my father during school holidays which I tended to resent at the time, but I did join in the construction of boats, building staircases, windows and more. This was an extraordinary training though very tough at times. From 1946 onwards, my father brought into Australia a number of journals, particularly from the United States, and from them I learned about the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Gordon Drake, Charles and Ray Eames and others. There were so many architects that I had learned about by the time that I was 15 or 16. This had enormous influence on me.

I had difficulty with my education, but I finally entered the University of Technology in 1956 where I undertook the part-time course in architecture. I was fortunate enough to have had a teacher by the name of Noel Bazeley, who taught building construction. He was largely dismissed by most students, but whilst the other groups studied the construction of footings and foundations, floors, walls, ceiling joists and roofs for the whole year of three terms, Bazeley gave us the subject continuity in nature. What a wonderful subject, continuity in nature, discussed for a full term. Having understood the importance of continuity in nature, the second term was devoted to the understanding of continuity in nature related to the built environment. For term three, we studied foundations, floors, walls and so on ...

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