Handicapping the Pritzker Prize, 2009 Edition



One of my favorite days of the year is coming, when we find out which living architect will be awarded the career-making Pritzker Prize, often called “the Nobel Prize of architecture,” for calendar year 2009. The winner will be announced on April 12th, so I’ve decided to set some odds for a selection of annual (and not so annual) favorites for the coveted prize. Past juries have selected a few long shots (most recently the Brazilian Paolo Mendes da Rocha in 2006), but it’s likely these candidates will be under consideration. Please place your bets in the comment board.


5:1 — David Chipperfield (British, b. 1953)

Chipperfield has been on a hot streak of late, having won the 2007 RIBA Stirling Prize for the Museum of Modern Literature in Germany (his America’s Cup building in Valencia, Spain was also on the shortlist). He has also just completed major portions of the Museum Island redevelopment in Berlin that he has masterminded since 2001. At 55, he’s a bit young, but past juries have rewarded those whose careers are gaining momentum. 


7:1 — Steven Holl (American, b. 1947)

It seems ridiculous that Holl has yet to collect a Pritzker. With his practice consistently growing worldwide and his acclaim not far behind, Holl would seem a deserving candidate. He will finish his largest building to date in 2009, the Linked Hybrid in Beijing, and has recently won several international competitions. Holl has many well-received buildings to his credit and a Pritzker could send him over the top in terms of exposure.


7:1 — Wolf Prix (Austrian, b. 1946) of Coop Himmelb(l)au

On the eve of a major exhibition of their work at Columbus’ Wexner Center, don’t count out Coop’s partner. Their Wolfsburg center for BMW was a major hit, even if the Akron Art Museum wasn’t.


10:1 — Peter Eisenman (American, b. 1932)

It seems that if they were going to give it to ol’ Peter, they would have done so already, but this might be the year. His magnum opus, the City of Culture in Santiago, Spain is nearing completion, and he also published a well-received book (Ten Canonical Buildings) in 2008. He might just win this thing yet!


10:1 — Kazuyo Sejima (Japanese, b. 1956) and Ryue Nishizawa (Japanese, b. 1963) of SANAA

SANAA may never have another year like 2007, in which their first two American buildings (the New Museum in New York and Glass Pavilion in Toledo) opened to much acclaim, but their practice continues to get larger commissions and deliver for their clients with quiet grace. 


12:1 — Peter Zumthor (Swiss, b. 1943)

Often called “the architect’s architect,” Zumthor works so slowly that it’s a major event when he completes a building. He has finished two fabulous ones in the past two years: the Bruder Klaus Chapel in rural Germany, and the Kolumba museum in Cologne, yielding a huge amount of momentum given his plodding output.


15:1 — Toyo Ito (Japanese, b. 1941)

Ito has been quiet for the past couple years, but he has some major works under construction at the moment and he’s always been popular with the architecture establishment. Not many would argue his selection. 


15:1 — Ben Van Berkel (Dutch, b. 1957) of UN Studio

The completion of the Mercedes-Benz Museum has brought Van Berkel and his partner Caroline Bos much recognition, but the momentum in terms of built work is yet to come. Watch out for Ben a couple years from now, but don’t count him out this year either.


20:1 — Massimiliano Fuksas (Italian, b. 1944)

Fuksas is a bit of a dark horse, but he has been on a roll since the completion of the Milan Expo complex in 2006. He exhibited at the recent Venice Biennale and has just completed an ambitious showroom for Giorgio Armani in New York.


20:1 — Daniel Libeskind (Polish/American, b. 1946)

He has just completed the Jewish Museum of San Francisco and major developments in Denver and Newport, Kentucky. The round of projects commissioned after he won the Ground Zero masterplan are coming due, so look for his chances to grow in the coming years.


30:1 — Greg Lynn (American, b. 1964)

Don’t count out the prophet of digitalia. He finished 2008 strong, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale and publishing a successful monograph with Rizzoli.


7 Comments on “Handicapping the Pritzker Prize, 2009 Edition”

  1. My money is on Holl. Although I could see Zumthor as a reaction against ‘starchitecture’

    …you should set up a poll in the sidebar for people to vote.

  2. Toyo says:

    The more Daniel Libeskind builds, the more his chances diminish. He’s been looking like a fool for the past five or six years with a slew of shallow, ill-concieved developer-schlock projects. There’s no depth to his ideas. A diagonal window here, a sloped wall there …. not much more apart from his huge ego.

    The Washington Post described his Toronto Museum as “the most perverse and disastrous museum expansion in living memory.” His Denver Museum was so bad the interiors had to be rebuilt in order to display the collection and to make it comply with ADA legislation.

    I think we can say that Libeskind’s 15 minutes of fame are over. He blew it with his pretentious writing and crude designs.

  3. Carlos says:

    Zumthor is the best of the lot.

    Libeskind won’t get any votes unless he buys off the judges. His constant condescending attitude towards other architects and his trademark ego hasn’t won him any friends either, so he’s a non-runner.

    For all his 40 years in practice, Eisenman doesn’t really have much to show for it. His few built works are falling apart and he’s been strangled by his own pretentiousness.

    Funny thing is, bit Libeskind and Eisenman are total hypocrites. They talk up radical design, but both hired other architects to design livable apartments for themselves.

  4. Francesco says:

    Steven Holl, Toyo Ito, Daniel Libeskind, Peter Eiseman and Massimiliano Fuksas are god, but what about Edouardo Souto de Moura (Portugal), Mario Botta and Bernardt Tschumi (both Swiss) or Carlos OTT (Urugway)… aniway my favorite is Santiago Calatrava from Spain!..

    • michaelabrahamson says:

      I honestly forgot about Souto de Moura. I think he would be an excellent choice, along with Botta, but I would put both in the long shot category (20 or 25:1). I think Tschumi is an even longer shot because the Pritzker prides itself on awarding based on built work (with the exception of Zaha Hadid, obviously).

      I would be surprised if Calatrava wins a Pritzker, because I (and many others) view him as firstly an engineer. His works are lyrical and are amazing structural achievements, but there’s just something I can’t put my finger on that makes his work singularly NOT architecture. Maybe that makes me snob, but I think the jury would agree.

      Carlos Ott is still best know for winning a competition by imitating Richard Meier, not for any work he’s done since.

  5. Francesco says:

    I do not understand really your reticent for Santiago Calatrava considering that in more than I finds in your selection Bern Van Berkel who is a former employee of Santiago Calatrava…

    And why not a “long shot” category?.. I have a lot of name to propose starting with a lot of Japonese candidates : Wara Kishi ; Arato Isokazi ; Kenzo Kuma and… Shigeru Ban (Can he be rewarded, it is a member of the jury?)…

    A lot of french people : Paul Andreu, Dominique Perrault, Jean-Marie Duthilleul…

    But too why not a suprise candidate : Paula Santos (Portugal), Vito Acconci (USA), Michael Van Valkenburgh (USA), Peter Cook & Colin Fournier, Brookes Stacey, Randall Fursdon (Great-Britan), Günther Behnisch & Stefan Behnisch (from Germany)… and many others…

    But I still to say that Steven HOLL, Peter Eisenmann and Massimiliano Fuksas are very good candidates…

    Aniway, wait and see…

  6. michaelabrahamson says:

    Acconci would definitely be a pleasant surprise.

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