Gordon Bunshaft (1909-1990) has been credited with opening a whole new era of skyscraper design with his first major design project in 1952, the 24-story Lever House in New York. Many consider it the keystone of establishing the International Style as corporate America's standard in architecture, at least through the 1970s. In recent years, it has been declared a historic landmark, New York's most contemporary structure to hold that distinction.

The late Lewis Mumford described Lever House in The New Yorker in glowing terms, "It says all that can be said, delicately, accurately, elegantly, with surfaces of glass, with ribs of steel...an impeccable achievement."

In reviewing the Johnson Library for The New York Times, Ada Louise Huxtable described it as a new form of memorial, saying, "Architecture as art and symbol is one of civilization's oldest games, and Mr. Bunshaft is one of its most dedicated players."

Gordon Bunshaft was born in 1909 in Buffalo, New York. He studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning his bachelor's degree in 1933 and his master's degree in 1935. Bunshaft was awarded both the MIT Honorary Traveling Fellowship and the Rotch Traveling Fellowship, which allowed him to travel in Europe from 1935 until 1937. Upon his return to the United States he took a job in the New York with Edward Durell Stone. After a brief stint with Stone, he joined Louis Skidmore of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where he worked until 1942. One of his earliest assignments was to work on designs for some of the buildings for the New York World Fair of 1939. World War II intervened with Mr. Bunshaft serving in the Army Corps of Engineers and upon his return in 1946 he rejoined SOM, where he remained until 1979.

He was a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art and served on the President's Commission of Fine Arts (1963-72). Bunshaft was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1958. He received the Brunner Memorial Prize, the Gold Medal from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1984), the Medal of Honor from the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1988).

His last project before retiring from SOM was the National Commercial Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, completed in 1983. At three different levels, on each side of the building are loggias that Mr. Bunshaft called "gardens in the air." He acknowledged, "I think this is one of my best and most unique projects."

The Pritzker Architecture Prize Celebrates its Tenth Anniversary Honoring Two Laureates for 1988

Two architects, Gordon Bunshaft and Oscar Niemeyer, from North and South America respectively, whose works have been among the most influential and recognized in this century have been named Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates of 1988. The awards will be presented on Monday, May 23, at a ceremony at The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois.

Jay A. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, which established the prize in 1979, commented, "We are delighted that the jury has used the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the prize to honor, not one, but two masters of modern architecture."

Niemeyer, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and will be 81 this year, is perhaps best known for designing most of the buildings in Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil. He began his career in 1936, achieving his first taste of international acclaim in a collaboration with Le Corbusier on the building for the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro. It attracted worldwide attention at the time as one of the first buildings to express the emerging concepts of the modern architectural movement. In thr late forties, the two again worked together on the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. He is the sixth architect from outside the United States to receive the prize.

Bunshaft, who celebrates his seventy-ninth birthday this year lives in New York City. He has designed many buildings there, one of which, Lever House, has been declared an historic landmark, and which Bunshaft calls "my first real building." The sixty-story Chase Manhattan Bank, the Union Carbide Building, and the original PepsiCo building are all Bunshaft additions to the New York skyline. In Washington, D.C., the Hirshhorn Museum has become a familiar addition to the cultural landscape. In his hometown of Buffalo, New York, he designed another art museum, the addition to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, described by another Pritzker Laureate as "the most beautiful museum in the world." In Texas, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, and at Yale, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, add to 'the distinction of their designer, whose career at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, New York spanned over four decades. His last building for that firm before retiring was one he calls "one of my best and most unique projects," the National Commercial Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The Purpose of the prize is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

The prize consists of a $100,000 grant, a formal citation certificate, and a medallion. When the Pritzker family established the prize, they wanted to honor a creative endeavor not included in the Nobel Prizes. They modeled their procedures and rewards after the latter. As with the Nobels, the two Pritzker Laureates chosen by the jury in 1988 will share the prize equally.

The nominating procedure is continuous from year to year, with the final selection being made by an international jury with all deliberation, procedures and voting in secret.

The jury for the 1988 Pritzker Architecture Prize consisted of J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., who has served as juror since its founding, and is the chairman. The other citizens of the United States on the panel are Ada Louise Huxtable, author and architectural critic; and the architect Kevin Roche of Hamden, Connecticut, who received the Pritzker Prize in 1982. Serving as jurors from other countries are Jacob Rothschild, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Gallery of Art in London, England; architects Ricardo Legorretaof Mexico City and Fumihiko Maki of Tokyo, Japan; and from Torino, Italy, Giovanni Agnelli, chairman of Fiat.

Bill Lacy, secretary to the jury and former president of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, announced the selection with a citation from the jury that reads as follows:

"As we approach a decade of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, it seems appropriate to celebrate that milepost by honoring two masters of modern architecture to whom the profession owes so much. The sharing of the prize is unprecedented, but entirely warranted as a tribute to architects from North and South America whose work has had worldwide influence in this century, and doubtless will continue into the future."


The citation continues, "The distinguished careers of Oscar Niemeyer and Gordon Bunshaft parallel the story of twentieth century architecture. Each using a different palette, following sometimes the same and sometimes different mentors, shaping their visions of the built environment in different hemispheres, they have brought new dimension to the art that the Pritzker Prize celebrates. The flowing curve and precise geometry characterize their respective design approaches.

"Niemeyer's buildings are the distillation of the colors and light and sensual imagery of his native Brazil. His is an architecture of artistic gesture with underlying logic and substance.”

"Bunshaft has created a rich inventory of projects that set a timeless standard for buildings in the urban/corporate world. In a career that has spanned forty years of accomplishment, he has demonstrated an understanding of contemporary technology and materials in the making of great architecture that is unsurpassed.”

"Both men represent the philosophy of modernism that has given form to the singular resources of the twentieth century. A great debt is owed to these two men by their fellow architects as well as 'the public they serve. In awarding this prize for lifetimes of achievement, we," concludes the jury citation, "gratefully acknowledge that debt."

The first Pritzker Architecture Prize went to Philip Johnson in 1979. Kevin Roche, leoh Ming Pei, and Richard Meier complete the list of prior U.S. winners. Last year, Kenzo Tange of Japan received the prize, joining the list of international architects, Gottfried Böhm of the Federal Republic of Germany, Hans Hollein of Austria, James Stirling of Great Britain, and Luis Barragán of Mexico.

Bill Lacy, secretary to the jury, added, "With the addition of the names Bunshaft and Niemeyer to this list, the Pritzker Prize confirms that these two illustrious architects will have a place in the story something their outstanding buildings have already assured." 


Read Ada Louise Huxtable's Essay

Gordon Bunshaft is an architect of modest claims and significant deeds. When he states that he prefers that his buildings speak for him, he has chosen eloquent spokesmen. From the landmark Lever House in New York City to his crowning achievement in Saudi Arabia, his forty years of designing masterpieces of modern architecture demonstrate an understanding of contemporary technology and materials that is unsurpassed.

His astute perception that architecture is a joint venture between client and designer has generated mutual respect, and creative collaborations producing great building with an appropriate fusion of humanity and functionality for the people who inhabit and use his structures.

Perhaps no other architect has set such a timeless standard in the urban/corporate world, a standard by which future generations will judge this era, no doubt with acclaim, thanks to his abilities. Already acknowledged by peers and critics of his own era, the bestowing of the Pritzker Architecture Prize reaffirms his place in history for a lifetime of creativity in beautifying and uplifting the environment.

Jury Members

J. Carter Brown (Chairman)
Giovanni Agnelli
Ada Louise Huxtable
Ricardo Legorreta
Fumihiko Maki
Kevin Roche
Jacob Rothschild
Bill Lacy (Secretary to the Jury)
Stuart Wrede (Acting 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 Gordon Bunshaft's Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Read Jay Pritzker's Ceremony Speech


art institute

Ceremony Highlights

Full Ceremony