The Pritzker Prize 2012

Wang Shu of The People’s Republic of China Is the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

Los Angeles, CA—Wang Shu, a 48 year old architect whose architectural practice is based in Hangzhou, The People’s Republic of China, will be the recipient of the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize, it was announced today by Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation which sponsors the prize. The formal ceremony for what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture’s highest honor will be in Beijing on May 25.

Ningbo History Museum, 2003-2008, Ningbo, China. Photo by Lv Hengzhong

In announcing the jury’s choice, Pritzker elaborated, “The fact that an architect from China has been selected by the jury, represents a significant step in acknowledging the role that China will play in the development of architectural ideals. In addition, over the coming decades China’s success at urbanization will be important to China and to the world. This urbanization, like urbanization around the world, needs to be in harmony with local needs and culture. China’s unprecedented opportunities for urban planning and design will want to be in harmony with both its long and unique traditions of the past and with its future needs for sustainable development.”

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, 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 laureates receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo, spoke from his home in the United Kingdom, quoting from the jury citation that focuses on the reasons for this year’s choice: “The question of the proper relation of present to past is particularly timely, for the recent process of urbanization in China invites debate as to whether architecture should be anchored in tradition or should look only toward the future. As with any great architecture, Wang Shu´s work is able to transcend that debate, producing an architecture that is timeless, deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.”

Wang earned his first degree in architecture at the Nanjing Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture in 1985. Three years later, he received his Masters Degree at the same institute. When he first graduated from school, he went to work for the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou undertaking research on the environment and architecture in relation to the renovation of old buildings. Nearly a year later, he was at work on his first architectural project—the design of a 3600 square meter Youth Center for the small town of Haining (near Hangzhou). It was completed in 1990.

For nearly all of the next ten years, he worked with craftsmen to gain experience at actual building and without the responsibility of design. In 1997, Wang Shu and his wife, Lu Wenyu, founded their professional practice in Hangzhou, naming it “Amateur Architecture Studio.” He explains the name, “For myself, being an artisan or a craftsman, is an amateur or almost the same thing.” His interpretation of the word is relatively close to one of the unabridged dictionary’s definitions: “a person who engages in a study, sport or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.” In Wang Shu’s interpretation, the word “pleasure” might well be replaced by “love of the work.”

By the year 2000, he had completed his first major project, the Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University. In keeping with his philosophy of paying scrupulous attention to the environment, and with careful consideration of traditions of Suzhou gardening which suggests that buildings located between water and mountains should not be prominent, he designed the library with nearly half of the building underground. Also, four additional buildings are much smaller than the main body. In 2004, the library received the Architecture Arts Award of China.

His other major projects completed, all in China, include in 2005, the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum and five scattered houses in Ningbo which received acknowledgment from the Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction in the Asia Pacific. In that same city, he completed the Ningbo History Museum in 2008. In his native city of Hangzhou, he did the first phase of the Xiangshan Campus of the China Academy of Art in 2004, and then completed phase two of the same campus in 2007.

True to his methods of economy of materials, he salvaged over two million tiles from demolished traditional houses to cover the roofs of the campus buildings. That same year in Hangzhou, he built the Vertical Courtyard Apartments, consisting of six 26-story towers, which was nominated in 2008 for the German-based International High-Rise Award. Also finished in 2009 in Hangzhou, was the Exhibition Hall of the Imperial Street of Southern Song Dynasty. In 2006, he completed the Ceramic House in Jinhua.

Other international recognition includes the French Gold Medal from the Academy of Architecture in 2011. The year before, both he and his wife, Lu Wenyu, were awarded the German Schelling Architecture Prize.

Since 2000, Wang Shu has been the head of the Architecture Department of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, the institution where he did research on the environment and architecture when he first graduated from school. Last year, he became the first Chinese architect to hold the position of “Kenzo Tange Visiting Professor” at Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is also a frequent visiting lecturer at many universities around the world, including in the United States: UCLA, Harvard, University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania. He has participated in a number of major international exhibitions in Venice, Hong Kong, Brussels, Berlin and Paris.

Upon learning that he was being honored, Wang Shu had this reaction: “This is really a big surprise. I am tremendously honored to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. I suddenly realized that I’ve done many things over the last decade. It proves that earnest hard work and persistence lead to positive outcomes.”

The distinguished jury that selected the 2012 Pritzker Laureate consists of its chairman, The Lord Palumbo, internationally known architectural patron of London, chairman of the trustees, Serpentine Gallery, former chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, former chairman of the Tate Gallery Foundation, and former trustee of the Mies van der Rohe Archive at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and alphabetically: Alejandro Aravena, architect and executive director of Elemental in Santiago, Chile; Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Washington, D.C.; Yung Ho Chang, architect and educator, Beijing, The People’s Republic of China; Zaha Hadid, architect and 2004 Pritzker Laureate; Glenn Murcutt, architect and 2002 Pritzker Laureate of Sydney, Australia; Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, professor and author of Helsinki, Finland; and Karen Stein, writer, editor and architectural consultant in New York. Martha Thorne, associate dean for external relations, IE School of Architecture, Madrid, Spain, is the executive director of the prize.

The late Philip Johnson was the first Pritzker Laureate in 1979. The late Luis Barragán of Mexico was named in 1980. The late James Stirling of the United Kingdom was elected in 1981, Kevin Roche in 1982, Ieoh Ming Pei in 1983, and Richard Meier in 1984. Hans Hollein of Austria was the 1985 Laureate. Gottfried Böhm of Germany received the prize in 1986. The late Kenzo Tange was the first Japanese architect to receive the prize in 1987; Fumihiko Maki was the second from Japan in 1993; and Tadao Ando the third in 1995. Robert Venturi received the honor in 1991, and Alvaro Siza of Portugal in 1992. Christian de Portzamparc of France was elected Pritzker Laureate in 1994. The late Gordon Bunshaft of the United States and Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil, were named in 1988. Frank Gehry of the U.S. was the recipient in 1989, the late Aldo Rossi of Italy in 1990. In 1996, Rafael Moneo of Spain was the Laureate; in 1997 the late Sverre Fehn of Norway; in 1998 Renzo Piano of Italy, in 1999 Sir Norman Foster of the UK, and in 2000, Rem Koolhaas of the Netherlands. In 2001, two architects from Switzerland received the honor: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. Australian Glenn Murcutt received the prize in 2002. The late Jørn Utzon of Denmark was honored in 2003; Zaha Hadid of the UK in 2004; and Thom Mayne of the U.S. in 2005. Paulo Mendes da Rocha of Brazil was the Laureate in 2006, and Richard Rogers received the prize in 2007. Jean Nouvel of France was the Laureate in 2008. In 2009, Peter Zumthor of Switzerland received the award. In 2010, two Japanese architects were honored, partners Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA, Inc. Last year, Eduardo Souto de Moura of Portugal was the laureate.

The field of architecture was chosen by the Pritzker family because of their keen interest in building due to their involvement with developing the Hyatt Hotels around the world; and because architecture was a creative endeavor not included in the Nobel Prizes. The procedures were modeled after the Nobels, with the final selection being made by the international jury with all deliberations and voting in secret. Nominations are continuous from year to year with hundreds of nominees from countries all around the world being considered each year.

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One thought on “The Pritzker Prize 2012”

  1. arsitek muda danny wicaksono membuat ulasan singkat tentang wang shu di milis iai-architect. atas persetujuannya saya posting ulasan itu seutuhnya disini.
    Re: 2012 Pritzker Laureat
    Posted by: “Danny Wicaksono2”
    Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:58 am (PST)

    Ini menarik.

    Wang-Shu (49tahun) adalah salah satu arsitek cina paling menarik sekarang. Jika ada arsitek cina pertama yang berada di nominasi teratas untuk menerima pritzker prize, dia adalah orangnya. Dan hari ini terbukti.

    Saya pertama kali mengetahui tentang wangshu tahun 2009 lewat majalah MARK. Ningbo Historic museum of art nya (yang menjadi cover MARK edisi itu) menarik perhatian saya. Setelah membaca edisi itu, saya mengusulkan agar Wang-Shu diundang sebagai salah satu pembicara di JAT2009. Waktunya tidak cocok, beliau tidak bisa hadir.

    Agustus tahun 2010, saya dan beberapa orang teman, mengunjungi beberapa karyanya di kota Hangzhou dan Ningbo. Xiangshan Campus of Art di Hangzhou dan Ningbo historic museum dan Ningbo Art Museum.

    Di Xiangshan Campus, dimana dia mendesain masterplan dan seluruh bangunannya, saya terkejut. Saya tidak menyangka kualitas ruang dan arsitekturnya akan sebagus yang saya lihat. Saya merasa desain itu mengajarkan saya tentang mempelajari dan mengenal asal-usul saya. Dibangunan itu, saya merasa bahwa Wang Shu sudah sangat memahami asal-usulnya dan berhasil menterjemahkan itu kedalam bahasa arsitektur kontemporer. Ini yang saya katakan kepada beliau dan beliau mengatakan bahwa dugaan saya itu benar.

    Naiknya Wang-Shu ke permukaan arsitektur Internasional, sebetulnya cukup meteorik kalau kita melihat daftar panjang penerima-penerima lainnya. Mungkin bisa disamakan dengan Jeremy Lin di NBA (pemain basket NBA di klub New York Knicks, yang sebulan ini, mencuri perhatian dunia)

    Wawancara pertama dalam bahasa inggris dengan Wang-Shu dilakukan oleh jurnalis Belgia yang kini bermukim di Shanghai, Bert De Muynck ( wawancara ini adalah artikel yang dimuat di majalah MARK tahun 2009 lalu. Itu adalah kali pertama dunia arsitektur internasional diperkenalkan kepada Wang-Shu.

    Jika kemudian, 3 tahun setelah wawancara pertama yang dimuat di majalah MARK itu, Wang Shu kemudian mendapatkan Pritzker Prize, maka ini adalah hal yang sangat mengejutkan. Bandingkan dengan Peter Zumthor, yang setelah semua karyanya yang mengagumkan itu, beliau baru mendapatkannya di tahun 2009 kemarin. Atau Paolo Mendes Da Rocha yang mendapatkan pritzker prize di tahun 2006 di usia 78 tahun.

    Saya rasa untuk tahun ini, Pritzker Prize terlalu terburu-buru memberikan penghargaan ini untuk WangShu, saya pikir panitia sendiri kurang mengenal dan belum mendapatkan banyak informasi tentang Wang Shu. Ini terbukti dari “komplain” majalah MARK yang merasa press release dari Pritzker Prize, banyak mengambil dari wawancara Bert de Muynck yang dimuat di majalah mereka (

    Saya sudah memperkirakan bahwa penerima Pritzker Prize tahun ini akan dari Amerika Selatan atau Asia, dan akan tidak terduga. Saya tidak mau menebak Wang Shu karena saya pikir beliau masih perlu beberapa karya lagi untuk membuktikan konsitensinya. Lima tahun lagi, jika beliau sudah memiliki beberapa karya terbangun dengan kualitas yang sama seperti Xiangshan Campus, maka saya akan berani menyebut namanya. Ini mengapa saya terkejut juga ketika namanya diumumkan sebagai penerima.

    “Ketergesaan” dalam pemilihan Wang Shu sebagai penerima Pritzker tahun ini, mungkin menunjukan adanya hal yang mungkin bisa dibilang bergeser di dunia arsitektur global. Dari arsitektur yang merayakan ego arsitek, dan konsep-konsep besar, ke arsitektur yang lebih berkutat dengan hal-hal yang kecil, regionalisme dan konteks-konteks yang ada disekitar lingkungan si arsitek dan disekitar proyek.

    Jika kita lihat, setidaknya sejak Paolo Mendes da Rocha (yg menerima di tahun 2006) 4 arsitek yang menerimanya adalah arsitek-arsitek yang selalu mencoba untuk mendesain dengan berangkat dari dan menggali konteks yang mereka miliki dalam proyek mereka. Misalnya stadion sepak bola Braga (yang di desain oleh Souto de Moura) yang menggunakan batu alam setempat dan menggunakan alam sekitar sebagai latar belakang. Begitu juga Zumthor, Kazuya Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa, dan Mendes da Rocha. Sekarang Wang Shu.

    Saya curiga, para dewan juri tidak mampu menemukan arsitek seusia Wang-Shu dari negara lain, yang memiliki kualitas desain yang tinggi dan menghasilkan karya dengan latar belakang pemikiran seperti ini lagi. Oleh karena itu, mereka seperti memaksakan untuk memberikan penghargaan tahun ini kepada WangShu, meski dunia baru mengenalnya 3 tahun lalu, dan paling tidak baru 3 atau 4 karya dengan skala besar yang dia selesaikan. Rasanya belum juga ada buku yang pernah dia terbitkan, atau yang memuat kumpulan karyanya. Yang mungkin juga membantu beliau untuk terlibat lebih di dunia internasional adalah keikutsertaan beliau di Venice Biennale 2010.

    Saya tidak ingin menduga banyak tentang para jurinya, namun yang menarik perhatian saya adalah Alejandro Aravena, arsitek Cile yang pemikiran-pemikiran nya banyak berbicara tentang melihat hal-hal yang ada sekitarnya dengan kritis. Arsitek yang melihat bahwa arsitek dan arsitekturnya, sebaiknya juga bisa menyelesaikan masalah-masalah regionalnya, selain juga harus berkembang dari karakteristik regional yang ada. Saya pikir, Aravena punya peran besar dalam pemberian pritzker prize tahun ini kepada WangShu. Dan dengan lineup juri yang kritis seperti sekarang ( saya pikir ketidakterdugaan seperti ini, masih akan berlanjut lagi di tahun-tahun ke depan. Saya menebak penerima berikutnya akan datang dari Amerika Selatan.

    Kembali kepada Wang Shu; Kemunculan Wang Shu (dan banyak arsitek cina lainnya seperti Urbanus, Liu Xiaodu, Zhang Ke, Ma Yungson, Zhu Pei, Liu Jiakun, dll) sejalan paralel dengan boom ekonomi,properti dan keterbukaan pemerintah cina kepada dunia. Ketika pada akhirnya kesempatan-kesempat an untuk mendesain itu datang, arsitek-arsitek cina mampu menghasilkan karya arsitektur yang mampu membuat banyak arsitek dan pemerhati arsitektur dari negara-negara lain, menoleh kepada mereka dan kemudian mengakui kualitas hasil kerja mereka. Kini, dengan banyaknya arsitektur yang menarik di cina, dan kemudian dengan diakuinya Wang Shu sebagai penerima, apa yang dianggap sebagai penghargaan tertinggi dalam dunia arsitektur, rasanya iklim arsitektur cina sudah berada diantara iklim arsitektur yang paling menarik di dunia.

    Yang menarik untuk diikuti adalah pengaruh apa yang akan terjadi kepada aristek-arsitek muda atau mahasiswa arsitektur di cina sekarang. Saya pikir ini adalah pengangkat moral yang besar untuk arsitektur cina sekarang. Setiap arsitek di cina, rasanya bisa berpikir bahwa ada kemungkinan untuk hasil kerja mereka diberikan penghargaan tertinggi dalam arsitektur, karena arsitektur cina sudah ada dalam perhatian dunia. Hal ini pasti memacu, setidaknya beberapa arsitek cina, untuk menghasilkan karya yang paling tidak memiliki kualitas setara dengan Wang Shu, jika tidak lebih baik. Dan ini, hanya akan membuat kebudayaan bangun cina menjadi lebih baik.

    Indonesia kini memiliki pertumbuhan ekonomi yang berada diantara yang terbesar di dunia. Dan banyak yang bilang bahwa apa yang terjadi di Indonesia kini, memiliki gejala yang sama seperti ketika cina akan boom properti dan ekonomi. Ekonomi baik, dan pembangunan bergeliat dimana-mana. Dari yang saya dengar, banyak teman arsitek juga tidak kekurangan kerjaan. Bahkan beberapa minggu terakhir, banyak sekali iklan lowongan kerja di milis ini, dan di facebook. Kesempatan untuk menghasilkan karya sepertinya terus ada dan mungkin bertambah banyak.

    Pertanyaan untuk kita jawab lewat karya: apakah kita mampu menghasilkan hasil kerja yang mampu membuat arsitek dan pemerhati arsitektur dari negara lain, menoleh dan memperhatikan kita juga?

    Danny Wicaksono

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