Pritzker 2019 Arata Isozaki jaume prat
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Tema - Architecture Critic
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Verdict that, for once, isn’t bad. Because I have to say it or I’ll explode: JURY VERDICTS TEND TO BE FRIGHTENINGLY HORRIBLE. Read these: examples that make this obvious, in common place, the redaction of the Coca-Cola contest, the glorification of the cliché and/or the dangerous and demagogic politician who plays to the gallery. My scarce experience forming part of the jury for architectural awards (and the many pieces of news that aren’t able to be published that I have collected about them) can be summed up in one fact: search out the most aggressive (or passive aggressive) member of the jury. And/or follow the money. This will give you the measurement of its quality or lack thereof. Period.

The Pritzker Party, 2019 Edition

Last Tuesday the recipient of the 2019 Pritzker Prize was announced and it was awarded to Arata Isozaki. I would like to put this piece of news on the scale, balancing out its two terms and analyzing them separately: Pritzker/Isozaki-san.

The Pritzker Prize, as are all other architectural or other type of awards, is a joke; a communications ploy of global proportions that has managed to fill the hole that the Nobel’s left for architecture to make the news and the front page of all newspapers once a year.

This brings me to propose some reflections about the diffusion of architecture. When this is done by means of awards we are showing that which a certain jury has considered to be the best. But, what does the Pritzker Prize have that the rest don’t have? Of course it is the prestigious ploy of the Hyatt brand of hotels. And why this one and not the FAD or the National Awards or the Mies van der Rohe Award? Well that’s easy: all those prizes are awarded by cultural or public institutions, or both at the same time. Institutions that when they go out on a limb (always by means of a jury that they’ll be able to hold responsible if things don’t go well) they don’t show what is favorable but rather display it with such a grade of excellence that they don’t even actually tend to come close to. But not the Pritzker Prize. The ploy is honored through its transparency: we have a hotel chain. We want to make it a more prestigious cultural reference point. Let’s search for the means and take advantage of it as much as we can, putting in all necessary resources to make it happen. And we should be grateful for them: they could have done it in the field of Fine Arts, in gastronomy, technology, literature… but they chose architecture, obtaining it a trajectory that, despite its downfalls and errors, is actually quite coherent. Their own search for prestige is what has given them a relative superior independence in comparison to the majority of other awards.

Let’s stop ourselves one moment in this search for prestige: why must the discontinuous, the exceptional, the excessive always be rewarded? What happens with all that is normal and generic? Awarding discontinuity, the presumed architectural excellence, is the big mistake not of the Pritzker Prize, rather of all the other architectural awards. Architecture is a miracle. It surrounds us, permeates us, it is in our homes, in the design of many of our daily objects, in our public spaces, in the equipment that we use. A part of this architecture is good or really good. Examples of it splash every town and every city of our territory. We can see it, get excited by it, enjoy it, create secret maps, emotional journeys of great quality… Rewarding discontinuity is distancing the focus of attention from the architecture that surrounds us by means of the harmful message that architecture is only discontinuity, that which is exceptional. And that is the great mistake of the diffusion of architecture through awards.

Arata Isozaki is an example of: generosity, talent, depth, and influence. He has constructed a lot. He has constructed a lot and he’s done it well. Little more than add to the verdict of the jury1. One more reflection: curious as trajectories are left marked by discreet moments in one’s career, moments that erase a more global vision of it: Isozaki overcame postmodernism and he continues to produce works that are not at all inferior to the great milestones of a career that cannot be summarized. About the role of the architect I’ll hold on to the reflection proposed by our Pritzker in a beautiful video filmed during a visit that he made to the Church of Redentor de Venecia, a piece by Andrea Palladio. An emotional Isozaki put value to the incredible strength of such a powerful and systematic piece of architecture that was able to be finished after Palladio’s passing, seen by him as a demiurge, someone capable of proposing a system with its own life, so potent that it could finish itself with the presence of a second competent professional: Isozaki finding in the very Renaissance the origin of the contemporary way to understand the profession and the roots of his very own professional practice while giving keys to be able to understand not only his own work, but also the work of many of his colleagues. If discontinuities are to be rewarded, may they be as profound as the figure of this remarkable architect. Congratulations, Isozaki-san.


Cover image: The Kitakyushu Central Library in Japan, Arata Isozaki’s native country. Construction on the library was completed in the mid-1970s. Foto © Hisao Suzuki
Text translated by Kaitlyn P. Delaney
Notas de página
1

Verdict that, for once, isn’t bad. Because I have to say it or I’ll explode: JURY VERDICTS TEND TO BE FRIGHTENINGLY HORRIBLE. Read these: examples that make this obvious, in common place, the redaction of the Coca-Cola contest, the glorification of the cliché and/or the dangerous and demagogic politician who plays to the gallery. My scarce experience forming part of the jury for architectural awards (and the many pieces of news that aren’t able to be published that I have collected about them) can be summed up in one fact: search out the most aggressive (or passive aggressive) member of the jury. And/or follow the money. This will give you the measurement of its quality or lack thereof. Period.

Autor:
(Barcelona, 1975) Arquitecto por la ETSAB, compagina la escritura en su blog 'Arquitectura, entre otras soluciones' con la práctica profesional en el estudio mmjarquitectes. Conferenciante y profesor ocasional, es también coeditor de la colección de eBooks de Scalae, donde también es autor de uno de los volúmenes de la colección.

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