Handicapping Sunday’s Pritzker Prize Announcement

The most important award in all of architecture will be announced this weekend. We look at who should–and who will–win.

Pritzker Architecture Prize


It’s that time of year again! This Sunday will see the announcement of the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the highest honor in the field. Every year since 1979 (when the award went to Modernist master Philip Johnson), the Pritzker has been given to an 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.” Usually they’re also at least 50 years old, white, male and have at least a few major buildings under their belts.

Although everyone would love an underdog to snatch architecture’s top prize–a large contingency is calling for Architecture for Humanity’s socially-focused founder Cameron Sinclair to win–when it comes to the Pritzker, the winners are often fairly predictable. We’ve compiled a list of who we think are this year’s top six picks, and why or why not they’d win this year.

Steven Holl


The Frontrunner: Steven Holl
Most critics are placing bets on the New York architect and it would certainly be well-timed. His just-completed “horizontal skyscraper” Vanke Center in Shenzhen (above) which is as long as the Empire State Building is tall, is one of many sustainable, large-scale developments Holl has brought to China, capping a long list of built projects all over the world. This may very well be Holl’s year.

Elizabeth Diller & Ricardo Scofidio

The Experimental Duo: Elizabeth Diller & Ricardo Scofidio
Everyone would love to see another woman win (the only female architect ever to get the Pritzker has been Zaha Hadid). Recently completed projects like Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall (above) and the High Line have proved that Diller and Scofidio are essential to the fabric of New York City. The Pritzkers have only gone to a duo once in history: Herzog and deMeuron in 2001.

Shigeru Ban

The Sustainable Choice: Shigeru Ban
If the Pritzker committee is in any way issues-oriented (we’re not sure they are) and wants to acknowledge advances in green design, Ban is the man. The Japanese architect known for his “paper architecture” using cardboard and reclaimed materials is putting the finishing touches on his most major project to date, the Centre Pompidou in Metz (above).

Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa


The Crafty Duo: Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa
Known as SANAA (you probably know them best for their New Museum building in New York), This Japanese male-female team now has a major project underneath their belts with the Rolex Learning Center in Switzerland (above). The Pritzkers love craft-oriented practitioners, and SANAA has been quietly building its empire for years. Plus, here’s another chance for the Pritzker to go to a woman.

Daniel Libeskind

The Odd Angle: Daniel Libeskind
No one can argue that Libeskind hasn’t been busy proliferating the planet with his spiny, spiky works (why, we covered his Dublin Grand Canal Theater earlier today). The Polish-born architect has a distinctive style which seems to attract the Pritzker committee, but Libeskind’s failed pitch for the Freedom Tower may have hurt his reputation with the bigwigs.

Toyo Ito

The Wildcard: Toyo Ito
Another Japanese architect has designed some wildly fanciful buildings like the Za-Koenji theater in Tokyo, and with the Pritzker overdue to acknowledge a Japanese architect, Ito’s odds are improved (Tadao Ando was the last Japanese nod in 1995). But Ito’s biggest works are probably still before him.

We’ve put everything we’ve got on Holl, but who do you think will win? More importantly, who do you think should win? We’ll be standing by Sunday morning with the announcement.


About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato


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