Wang Shu was officially honored with architecture's most coveted recognition, the Pritzker Prize, in a ceremony in Beijing on May 25 where he was awarded with the bronze medallion and a $100,000 grant. Shu is the first Chinese architect to receive the award, and the prize marks a turning point for Shu's studio, Amateur Architecture, which he runs with his wife Lu Wenyu out of Hangzhou. Responsible for a number of large cultural and social projects in his native country, Wang Shu has become known for work that is "deeply rooted in its context and yet universal." Some of Wang Shu's most well known projects include the Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University, the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum, the Ningbo History Museum, phase 1 and 2 of the Xingshan Campus of the China Academy of Art, and the Vertical Courtyard Apartments. Shu is also the head of the Architecture Department of the China Academy of Art.
Wang Shu is the first Chinese architect to be awarded with the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Shu is a 48-year-old architect whose architectural practice, Amateur Architecture Studio, is based in Hangzhou. Wang earned his first degree in architecture at the Nanjing Institute of Technology Department of Architecture in 1985, and then three years later he received his Masters Degree from the same institute. From there he went to work for the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou doing research on the environment and architecture in relation to the renovation of old buildings.
In 1990 he completed his first architectural work – a 3,600 square meter Youth Center in Haining, but it was not until 1997 when he and his wife, Lu Wenyu, founded their professional practice, which they named Amateur Architecture Studio. Although he is certainly no amateur, Wang named it thus because the definition of amateur means someone who does something purely out of pleasure rather than it just being work. Three years later in 2000, he completed his first major project, the Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University. Over the next decade Wang and his firm have completed a number of large-scale projects including museums, apartment buildings, and university campuses.
The Pritzker Prize panel stated: “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.”
Throughout his work Wang has paid close attention to the environment, the building’s relationship to its site and surroundings, and the use of materials. In his project for the Xingshan Campus of the China Academy of Art, he salvaged over two million tiles from demolished traditional houses to cover the roofs of the campus buildings. Since 2000, Wang Shu has been the head of the Architecture Department of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. Last year, he became the first Chinese architect to hold the position of “Kenzo Tange Visiting Professor” at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He has been a frequent visiting professor at UCLA, Harvard, the University of Texas, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has also received other awards including the 2004 Architecture Art Award of China, a Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction in the Asia-Pacific region, the 2010 Schelling Architecture Prize, and the 2011 French Gold Medal from the Academy of Architecture.
Upon learning of his award, Wang Shu said, “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.”
Lead Photo by Romain Milan