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Sejima and Nishizawa, Architects of the New Museum, Win the Pritzker Prize

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Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima, 2010 Pritzker Prize winners

New York’s New Museum can now boast of having had its new facility designed by this year’s winners of the prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture. Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA, the Tokyo-based architectural firm, won for their explorations “of continuous space, lightness, transparency, and materiality to create a subtle synthesis” and for their “straightforwardness, economy of means and restraint in their work.”

The $100,000 prize is provided by the Pritzker family of Chicago through
their Hyatt Foundation. The award ceremony will occur on May 17 on New York City’s Ellis Island in the Great Hall of the Main Immigration Building, now an immigration museum.

Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, noted:

Japanese architects have [previously] been chosen three times in the thirty-year history of the Pritzker Architecture Prize—the first was the late Kenzo Tange in 1987, then in 1993, Fumihiko Maki was selected, and in 1995, Tadao Ando was the honoree.

Bloomberg‘s architecture critic James Russell, who had been unimpressed by the architecture for the New Museum was similarly lukewarm about the Pritzker jury’s award:

While I can’t fault the Pritzker jury on narrow aesthetic
grounds, this is the second straight year that the award has
gone to inward-looking architects who create rarefied beauty.
Last year’s winner, Switzerland’s Peter Zumthor [my link, not Russell’s],
is known for
designing buildings of primordial calm in remote settings.

At a time of profound challenges in the field, when
buildings can make significant contributions to the environment
and house the world’s homeless, the Pritkzer is sending a
message that architecture is mostly an aesthetic refuge. That’s
a disservice.

As you would expect, the Pritzker Jury’s citation (P. 6) takes the opposite view:

It may be tempting to view Sejima and Nishizawa’s refined compositions of lightness and transparency as elitist or rarefied. Their aesthetic, however, is one of inclusion.

I do agree with the jury that “the New Museum in New York feels at home in the rough Bowery area of the city.” CultureGrrl‘s former guest blogger, architecture critic Martin Filler, gave us his favorable appraisal here, calling it “2007’s Museum of the
Year.”

an ArtsJournal blog