Pritzker Prize Winner Wang Shu

Amateur Architecture Studio, Five Scattered Houses. Photograph by Lang Shuilong.

Recipient of architecture's highest honor lectures at WUSTL

Posted by Liam Otten, The Record February 28, 2012

Wang Shu has won the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize, making him the first Chinese citizen to receive what is generally considered architecture's highest honor.

Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the $100,000 prize, made the announcement Monday, February 27. Two days later, students and faculty in the Sam Fox School will be among the first to congratulate Wang when the architect discusses his work as part of the School's spring Public Lecture Series.

The talk is free and open to the public and will begin at 6:30p Wednesday, February 29, in Steinberg Auditorium. Seating is limited. A reception will precede the talk, at 5:30p in the Kemper Art Museum. For more information, call 314.935.9300 or click here.

"This is a wonderful acknowledgement of the international character of contemporary architecture," says Peter MacKeith, associate dean of the Sam Fox School and associate professor of architecture, who organizes the lecture series.

MacKeith notes that, as China has grown increasingly urbanized, Chinese architects have gained increasing prominence on the world stage. "It's a quality that's reflected in the international character of the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, as well as in the University's own ambitions."

"Our Chinese students are really excited by this news," MacKeith adds. "It is a great honor that they all share in."

Wang is principal of Amateur Architecture Studio, which he founded in Hangzhou in 1997 with his wife, Lu Wenyu. Though formally spare and rigorous, the firm's work frequently incorporates elements of local craftsmanship while alluding to regional practices and characteristics.

For example, Wang's design for Xingshan Campus of the China Academy of Art (completed in two phases, in 2004 and 2007) included more than two million roof tiles salvaged from demolished traditional houses. Similarly, his design for the Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University (2000) sited nearly half the building underground, in accordance with local gardening customs, which suggest that structures located between water and the mountains should not be prominent.

Other major projects include the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum (2005) and the Ningbo Historic Museum (2008) as well as a pair of projects in Hangzhou: the Vertical Courtyard Apartments (2008), which consists of six 26-story towers, and the Exhibition Hall of the Imperial Street of Southern Song Dynasty (2009).

"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," the Pritzker jury noted in its citation."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."

Perhaps fittingly, Wang will deliver the Sam Fox School's 2012 Fumihiko Maki Lecture. Maki, winner of the 1993 Pritzker Prize, was on faculty from 1956-63 and is architect of three campus buildings: Steinberg Hall, Walker Hall, and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Other Pritzker laureates associated with the university include Austrailian architect Glenn Murcutt, who won in 2002, while serving as the Ruth and Norman Moore Visiting Professor of Architecture. Hans Hollein of Vienna, who taught here in 1963-64, won in 1985. Gottfried Boehm of Cologne, Germany, the 1986 laureate, was a visiting professor in 1998.

Both Murcutt and Juhani Pallasmaa, a former Raymond E. Maritz Visiting Professor of Architecture, currently serve on the Pritzker Jury.