The 2010 Pritzker Prize was just announced today, and the winners of this year's esteemed prize are Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, a Tokyo-based architecture duo called SANAA. Announced earlier today, this is the first female-male duo to win the esteemed award and we can certainly see why they took home this year's prize. Most notably known for their work on the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, the Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Museum of Art, and the recent Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, SANAA's buildings are subtle and understated, as well as light and transparent. While SANAA may not be as flashy or iconic as of their peers (ahemm Gehry), their works have a quiet beauty and inherent sustainability to them and are certainly worthy of the "Nobel Peace Prize" of Architecture.
The distinguished and well decorated seven-member jury praised the duo’s body of work “that is simultaneously delicate and powerful, precise and fluid, ingenious but not overly or overtly clever.” SANAA is more known for creating an architectural experience for the people inside the building than for those on the outside and the The New Museum of Contemporary Art is a perfect example. It has simple facade of stacked boxes reaching up into the sky, but on the interior provides a perfect backdrop to present contemporary art with daylit interiors, allowing visitors to focus on the art rather than the architecture. SANAA’s design for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in Hyde Park, London, provided a temporary shelter for visitors that changed appearances with the weather. The mirrored aluminum ceiling of the pavilion reflected the ground, trees and exterior world around it – bringing the outdoors inside. As typical of SANAA’s work, the design focused more on the interior user experience of moving through space rather than the exterior view of the structure.
Recently completed, the Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne, Switzerland is yet another example of how the duo designed for the interior experience. The single level learning laboratory has an undulating roof and floor that moves around a series of outdoor patios. Praised for its innovative design and construction, the Rolex Learning Center is designed to encourage student collaboration as well as provide them with quiet places for work and study. SANAA worked diligently on this project to create a highly energy efficient building with a strong emphasis on natural daylighting and ventilation, high efficiency insulation, double glazed windows, and geothermal cooling. Like many of their buildings, the Rolex Learning Center should not judged solely by its simple, understated exterior, because there is so much more going on on the inside of the space.
The Pritzker Prize is the highest award a living architect can receive and is given in honor of significant achievement. Awarded every year since 1979, the Pritzker Prize honors an architect whose “built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talents, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.” Kazuyo Sejima is the second woman ever to receive this honor, after Zaha Hadid won in 2004. Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa will also receive two bronze medallions and a $100,000 grant at a ceremony on New York’s Ellis Island on May 17th.