Glenn Murcutt, the son of Australian parents, was born in London in 1936. He grew up in the Morobe district of New Guinea, where he developed an appreciation for simple, primitive architecture. His father introduced him to the architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the philosophies of Henry David Thoreau, both of which influenced his architectural style.

Murcutt studied at the University of New South Wales, graduating in 1961 with a degree in architecture. After completing his university studies, Murcutt traveled for two years, returning to Sydney in 1964 to work in the office of Ancher, Mortlock, Murray and Woolley. He remained with this firm for five years before he established his own practice in 1970. His small, but exemplary practice is well known for its environmentally sensitive designs with a distinctive Australian character. His architecture has remained consistent over time. His buildings, which are principally residential, are a harmonious blend of modernist sensibility, local craftsmanship, indigenous structures, and respect for nature. They are both unusual in character, and yet curiously familiar. He has been a visiting professor at many schools of architecture, most recently at Yale and Washington universities in the United States. His work is internationally acclaimed and he is a highly regarded as a teacher, critic, and lecturer around the world ...

Australian Architect Becomes the 2002 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize

An Australian architect, Glenn Murcutt, who works as a sole practitioner, primarily designing environmentally sensitive modernist houses that respond to their surroundings and climate, as well as being scrupulously energy conscious, has been named to receive the 2002 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The 66 year-old Murcutt lives and has his office in Sydney, but travels the world teaching and lecturing to university students.

In announcing the jury’s choice, Thomas J. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, said, “Glenn Murcutt is a stark contrast to most of the highly visible architects of the day—his works are not large scale, the materials he works with, such as corrugated iron, are quite ordinary, certainly not luxurious; and he works alone. He acknowledges that his modernist inspiration has its roots in the work of Mies van der Rohe, but the Nordic tradition of Aalto, the Australian wool shed, and many other architects and designers such as Chareau, have been important to him as well. Add in the fact that all his designs are tempered by the land and climate of his native Australia, and you have the uniqueness that the jury has chosen to celebrate. While his primary focus is on houses, one of his public buildings completed in 1999, the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre, has achieved acclaim as well, critics calling it ‘a masterwork’.”

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, J. Carter Brown, commented, “Glenn Murcutt occupies a unique place in today’s architectural firmament. In an age obsessed with celebrity, the glitz of our ‘starchitects,’ backed by large staffs and copious public relations support, dominates the headlines. As a total contrast, our laureate works in a one-person office on the other side of the world from much of the architectural attention, yet has a waiting list of clients, so intent is he to give each project his personal best. He is an innovative architectural technician who is capable of turning his sensitivity to the environment and to locality into forthright, totally honest, non-showy works of art. Bravo!”

The formal presentation of what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture's highest honor will be made at a ceremony on May 29, 2002 at Michelangelo’s Campidoglio in the heart of Rome. At that time, Murcutt will be presented with a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion. Murcutt is the first Australian to become a Pritzker Laureate, and the 26th honoree since the prize was established in 1979. His selection continues what has become a ten-year trend of laureates from the international community. In fact, architects from other countries chosen for the prize now far outnumber the U.S. recipients, nineteen to seven.

Bill Lacy, who is an architect, spoke as the executive director of the Pritzker Prize, quoting from the jury citation that states, “His is an architecture of place, architecture that responds to the landscape and the climate. His houses are fine tuned to the land and the weather. He uses a variety of materials, from metal to wood to glass, stone, brick and concrete—always selected with a consciousness of the amount of energy it took to produce the materials in the first place.”

Lacy elaborated, “Murcutt’s thoughtful approach to the design of such houses as the Marika-Alderton House in Eastern Arnhem Land; the Marie Short House in New South Wales; and the Magney House at Bingie Bingie, South Coast, New South Wales, are testament that aesthetics and ecology can work together to bring harmony to man’s intrusion in the environment.”

 

Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic and member of the jury, commented further saying, “Glenn Murcutt has become a living legend, an architect totally focused on shelter and the environment, with skills drawn from nature and the most sophisticated design traditions of the modern movement.”

Another juror, Carlos Jimenez from Houston, who is professor of architecture at Rice University, said, “Nurtured by the mystery of place and the continual refinement of the architect’s craft, Glenn Murcutt’s work illustrates the boundless generosity of a timely and timeless vision. The conviction, beauty and optimism so evident in the work of this most singular, yet universal architect remind us that architecture is foremost an ennobling word for humanity.”

And from juror Jorge Silvetti, who chairs the Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, “The architecture of Glenn Murcutt surprises first, and engages immediately after because of its absolute clarity and precise simplicity—a type of clarity that soon proves to be neither simplistic nor complacent, but inspiringly dense, energizing and optimistic. His architecture is crisp, marked and impregnated by the unique landscape and by the light that defines the fabulous, far away and gigantic mass of land that is his home, Australia. Yet his work does not fall into the easy sentimentalism of a chauvinistic revisitation of the vernacular. Rather, a considered, serious look would trace his buildings’ lineage to modernism, to modern architecture, and particularly to its Scandinavian roots planted by Asplund and Lewerentz, and nurtured by Alvar Aalto.”

 

Read Kenneth Frampton's Essay

Glenn Murcutt is a modernist, a naturalist, an environmentalist, a humanist, an economist and ecologist encompassing all of these distinguished qualities in his practice as a dedicated architect who works alone from concept to realization of his projects in his native Australia. Although his works have sometimes been described as a synthesis of Mies van der Rohe and the native Australian wool shed, his many satisfied clients and the scores more who are waiting in line for his services are endorsement enough that his houses are unique, satisfying solutions. Generally, he eschews large projects which would require him to expand his practice, and give up the personal attention to detail that he can now give to each and every project. His is an architecture of place, architecture that responds to the landscape and to the climate.

His houses are fine tuned to the land and the weather. He uses a variety of materials, from metal to wood to glass, stone, brick and concrete—always selected with a consciousness of the amount of energy it took to produce the materials in the first place. He uses light, water, wind, the sun, the moon in working out the details of how a house will work—how it will respond to its environment. His structures are said to float above the landscape, or in the words of the Aboriginal people of Western Australia that he is fond of quoting, they “touch the earth lightly.” Glenn Murcutt’s structures augment their significance at each stage of inquiry. One of Murcutt’s favorite quotations from Henry David Thoreau, who was also a favorite of his father, “Since most of us spend our lives doing ordinary tasks, the most important thing is to carry them out extraordinarily well.” With the awarding of the 2002 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the jury finds that Glenn Murcutt is more than living up to that adage.

Jury Members

J. Carter Brown (Chairman)
Giovanni Agnelli
Ada Louise Huxtable
Carlos Jimenez
Jorge Silvetti
Lord Rothschild
Bill Lacy (Executive Director)

Michelangelo's Campidoglio, Rome, Italy

The Capitoline Hill or Campidoglio is the smallest of Rome's seven hills, but it was the religious and political center of the city since its foundation more than 2500 years ago.

A few years after he arrived in Rome, Pope Paul III (born Alessandro Farnese) decided to reshape the Capitoline Hill into a monumental civic piazza; Michelangelo designed the project and his Piazza del Campidoglio is one of the most significant contributions ever made in the history of urban planning. The hill's importance as a sacred site in antiquity had been largely forgotten due to its medieval transformation into the seat of the secular government and headquarters for the Roman guilds. Michelangelo took charge of reorganizing the area as a dynamic new center of Roman political life. His design included not only the piazza or open square, but also redesign of the Palazzo Senatori, a new façade for the Palazzo dei Conservatori and opposite it, the new Palazzo Nuovo. The project went forward slowly and in stages with many interruptions. It was begun in 1538, little was completed before Michaelangelo’s death in 1564, and the entire project was not completed until the seventeenth century.

The 2002 ceremony counted with the participation of the Mayor of Rome, the Undersecretary of the Minister of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs, Bill Lacy, executive Director of the Pritzker Prize, Thomas J. Pritzker, President of the Hyatt Foundation and Glenn Murcutt, Pritzker Prize Laureate.

 

Read Glenn Murcutt's Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Read Bill Lacy's Ceremony Speech

Read Vittorio Sgarbi's Ceremony Speech

Read Walter Veltroni's Ceremony Speech

 

murcutt ceremony

 

Ceremony Highlights

Full Ceremony