Kevin Roche (1922-2019), the 1982 recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, is no stranger to awards and praise. With good reason, since the body of work accomplished by him, and with his partner of 20 years, John Dinkeloo, who died in 1981, is truly prolific.

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1922, Roche received his undergraduate degree in architecture from the National University of Dublin in 1945. He continued his studies in the United States in 1948 with Mies van der Rohe at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, but left after only one semester. His search for the humanist side of architecture led him to the office Eliel and Eero Saarinen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. His future partner, John Dinkeloo, joined the firm in 1951, shortly after Roche. From 1954 until Eero Saarinen's death in 1961, Roche was his principal associate in design.

Upon Saarinen’s death, Roche and Dinkeloo completed the ten major projects underway, including the St. Louis Arch, the TWA Terminal at JFK International Airport in New York, Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., Deere and Company Headquarters in Moline, Illinois, and the CBS Headquarters in New York.

Roche's first design after Saarinen's death was the Oakland Museum. The city was planning a monumental building to house natural history, technology and art. Roche gave them a unique concept, a building that is a series of low-level concrete structures covering a four block area, on three levels, the terrace of each level forming the roof of the one below—a museum (actually three museums) with a park on its roof. This kind of innovative solution became Roche's trademark.

In Contemporary Architects, C. Ray Smith wrote that Roche "demonstrates a kind of problem solving for each specific situation that has produced works of distinct individuality and stylistic variety from project to project." And further, he called Roche and Dinkeloo, "The most aesthetically daring and innovative American firm of architects now working in the realm of governmental, educational and corporate clients."

Roche firmly believes that architecture should not fall into a rigid mold. There have been a number of attempts to label or categorize his work—all of which he rejects.

Speaking of his recent corporate headquarters for General Foods, in Rye, New York, Roche says, "It is not post-modern or pre-modern. It is simply the most obvious thing I could have done. It is an important center of economic activity. The design began with a need, and it addresses the problem of accommodating office workers in a suitable environment. I think the public will identify with it."

Among Roche's acclaimed designs is the Ford Foundation in New York City. The structure is of glass, rust-colored steel and warm brown granite, providing offices around a spacious 12-story atrium. In all, Roche has been responsible for some 51 major projects over the past twenty years. Critic Paul Goldberger described Roche as "a brilliantly innovative designer; his work manages to be inventive without ever falling into the trap of excessive theatricality."

One of his early honors was the California Governor's Award for Excellence in Design; a similar award came from New York State. There have been honorary degrees—one in 1977 from the National University of Ireland where he had completed his undergraduate studies and another from Wesleyan University. The American Institute of Architects—New York Chapter recognized him with the 1968 Medal of Honor, and in 1974 Roche and Dinkeloo received the national AIA Architectural Firm of the Year Award. The French Académie d'Architecture presented him with their Grand Gold Medal in 1977, and elected him a member in 1979. 

American architect Kevin Roche, of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, was today named the fourth annual recipient of the international Pritzker Architecture Prize, specifically created in 1979 to honor a branch of human endeavor overlooked by the Nobel Prizes. Along with the prestige of recognition, Roche receives a specially created Henry Moore sculpture and $100,000 tax-free.

In Europe, he has a number of completed projects that have won high praise from critics, including a residence in Bordeaux, France; the Educatorium, a multifunction building for Utrecht University in the Netherlands; the master plan and Grand Palais for Lille, France which is his largest realized urban planning project; and the Kunsthal, providing exhibition space, a restaurant and auditoriums in Rotterdam.

Jay A. Pritzker, president of the Hyatt Foundation that administers and funds the prize, made the announcement at a press conference at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City. He presented Roche with the check, and promised delivery of the Moore sculpture at a formal banquet planned for Chicago's Art Institute on May 19.

He also read the citation from the jury, as follows: "In this mercurial age, when our fashions swing overnight from the severe to the ornate, from contempt for the past to nostalgia for imagined times that never were, Kevin Roche's formidable body of work sometimes intersects fashion, the Robert Lehman Pavilion and the Michael C. Rockefeller Primitive Art Wing.

In California, Roche designed the innovative Oakland Museum. His arts and education projects in other parts of the country include the Denver Center for the Performing Arts; the Fine Arts Center of the University of Massachusetts; the J.M. Moudy Building for Visual Arts and Communication at Texas Christian University, Ft. Worth; and the Creative Arts Center, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.

He has built a wide array of corporate structures, including the new buildings of the John Deere Company in Illinois; the College Life Insurance Company of America buildings in Indianapolis; Aetna Life and Casualty Computer Building in Hartford, Connecticut; the headquarters of the Cumins Engine Company in Columbus, Indiana; and Richardson-Vicks in Wilton, Connecticut. Three other major projects are nearing completion: the corporate headquarters for General Foods in Rye, New York; Conoco in Houston; and Union Carbide in Danbury, Connecticut. In New Haven, he also built the headquarters for the Knights of Columbus and the New Haven Coliseum.

Among his most recent commissions are the Central Park Zoo, announced just last week by the City of New York; and the De Witt Wallace Museum of Fine Arts in Colonial Williamsburg.

Over the past two decades, Roche has designed some 51 major projects. Arthur Drexler, director of the department of architecture and design of the Museum of Modern Art, and consultant to the jury, has described Kevin Roche as "an architect who makes technology serve his art. His quietly spectacular buildings reveal the fantastic in twentieth century urban life."

Roche was chosen by a prestigious international panel: J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Lord Clark of Saltwood (Kenneth Clark), British author and art historian; Arata Isozaki, noted Japanese architect and critic; Philip Johnson, architect and 1979 Pritzker Prize Laureate; J. Irwin Miller, architectural patron; Cesar Pelli, architect and Dean of the School of Architecture, Yale University; and Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Chairman Emeritus, IBM Corporation. Carleton Smith, to whom King Gustavus VI Adolphus of Sweden suggested the prize, serves as secretary to the jury. Arthur Drexler, as consultant to the jury, reviews and screens a1l those nominated.

In making the announcement, Pritzker restated the aims of the prize, saying, "The Pritzker Architecture Prize was established in 1979 to honor the achievements of pre-eminent architects all over the world. The award is given annually to a living architect whose work demonstrates a combination of talent, vision and commitment that has produced a consistent and significant contribution to humanity and the environment."

The jury further amplified the purpose with the statement, "The Pritzker Prize is given yearly to an architect in recognition of his or her contribution to our society, as represented by the artistic merit of a substantial body of built work. It is given for built architecture, and not for drawings, proposals, theories or writings on architecture. It is given for architecture as art."

In this mercurial age, when our fashions swing overnight from the severe to the ornate, from contempt for the past to nostalgia for imagined times that never were, Kevin Roche's formidable body of work sometimes intersects fashion, sometimes lags fashion, and more often makes fashion.

He is no easy man to describe: an innovator who does not worship innovation for itself, a professional unconcerned with trends, a quiet humble man who conceives and executes great works, a generous man of strictest standards for his own work.

In this award to Kevin Roche we recognize and honor an architect who persists in being an individual, and has for all of us, through his work and his person, made a difference for the better.

Jury Members

J. Carter Brown (Chairman)
Lord Clark of Saltwood
Arata Isozaki
Philip Johnson
J. Irwin Miller
Cesar Pelli
Thomas J. Watson, Jr.
Carleton Smith (Secretary to the Jury)
Arthur Drexler (Consultant to the Jury)

The Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois

The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879 as both a museum and school, opened on its present site in the heart of Chicago in 1893. Throughout its history, it has grown extensively in response to the additions to its world-renowned collections and expanding programs. The original building, designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge forms the main entrance on Michigan Avenue. However, other architects and firms such as Howard Van Doren Shaw, Skidmore Owing & Merrill, Tom Beeby, C.F. Murphy Associates, Dan Kiley, Renzo Piano, and others have made significant contributions this institution.When the Chicago Stock Exchange (1893–94) was demolished in 1972, one of city’s most important landmarks designed by Louis Sullivan with his partner, Dankmar Adler, there was strong public outcry. Sections of Sullivan's elaborate stenciled decorations, molded plaster capitals, and art glass were preserved from the Trading Room, the magnificent centerpiece of the original 13-story structure.

Using these fragments, the Art Institute was able to reconstruct the Trading Room in its new wing in 1976–77. The arch from the main entrance of the Stock Exchange Building was also preserved and graces the Art Institute’s campus in homage to the original landmark.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremonies from both 1982 and 1988 took place at the Art Institute of Chicago. The 1982 ceremony consisted of an open air reception and ceremony and dinner in the Stock Exchange Trading Room. The 1998 presentation was officially made at a luncheon within the museum.


Read Kevin Roche's Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Read J. Carter Brown's Ceremony Speech

stock exchange room

Ceremony Highlights

Full Ceremony