Yesterday evening, the 48-years-old Chinese architect Wang Shu of Amateur Architecture Studio has joined the likes of Tadao Ando, Norman Foster and Peter Zumthor after he was announced to be the winner of this year’s edition of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. In its 36th edition, the award is considered to be the architecture’s highest honour and Wang is the first Chinese architect to be decorated with the $100.000 prize (although the Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei, known as I. M. Pei, who was the recipient of the trophy in 1983 was, in fact, born in China).
When speaking of this year’s laureate, Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo explained: “The question of the proper relation of present to past is particularly timely, for the recent process of urbanization in China invites debate as to whether architecture should be anchored in tradition or should look only toward the future. As with any great architecture, Wang Shu´s work is able to transcend that debate, producing an architecture that is timeless, deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.”
More about this year’s laureate:
‘Wang earned his first degree in architecture at the Nanjing Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture in 1985. Three years later, he received his Masters Degree at the same institute. Nearly a year later, he was at work on his first architectural project—the design of a 3600 square meter Youth Center for the small town of Haining (near Hangzhou). It was completed in 1990. For nearly all of the next ten years, he worked with craftsmen to gain experience at actual building and without the responsibility of design. In 1997, Wang Shu and his wife, Lu Wenyu, founded their professional practice in Hangzhou, naming it “Amateur Architecture Studio.” He explains the name;
“For myself, being an artisan or a craftsman, is an amateur or almost the same thing.” His interpretation of the word is relatively close to one of the unabridged dictionary’s definitions: “a person who engages in a study, sport or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.” In Wang Shu’s interpretation, the word “pleasure” might well be replaced by “love of the work.”
‘By the year 2000, he had completed his first major project, the Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University. In keeping with his philosophy of paying scrupulous attention to the environment, and with careful consideration of traditions of Suzhou gardening which suggests that buildings located between water and mountains should not be prominent, he designed the library with nearly half of the building underground. Also, four additional buildings are much smaller than the main body. In 2004, the library received the Architecture Arts Award of China.’
‘His other major projects completed, all in China, include in 2005, the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum and five scattered houses in Ningbo which received acknowledgment from the Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction in the Asia Pacific. In that same city, he completed the Ningbo History Museum in 2008. In his native city of Hangzhou, he did the first phase of the Xiangshan Campus of the China Academy of Art in 2004, and then completed phase two of the same campus in 2007.
‘True to his methods of economy of materials, he salvaged over two million tiles from demolished traditional houses to cover the roofs of the campus buildings. That same year in Hangzhou, he built the Vertical Courtyard Apartments, consisting of six 26-story towers, which was nominated in 2008 for the German-based International High-Rise Award. Also finished in 2009 in Hangzhou, was the Exhibition Hall of the Imperial Street of Southern Song Dynasty. In 2006, he completed the Ceramic House in Jinhua.’