Handicapping the Pritzker Prize, 2011 Edition


The Pritzker Prize Laureate for 2011 will be announced in April, and here is my list of favorites. I missed my chance to do this last year, but given that the last two laureates were on my 2009 shortlist (Peter Zumthor [12:1] and Kazuyo Sejima [10:1]) I decided it would be fun to try again this year. I think it will be among these ten architects, unless the jury goes weird, like they did in 2006 with Paolo Mendes da Rocha. You just never know.


5:1 – Liz Diller (American, b. Poland, 1954) and Ricardo Scofidio (American, b. 1935) of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Like 2010 laureates Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, DS+R are nearly ubiquitous at the moment. They have recently been awarded several major commissions, including the Broad Art Museum in Los Angeles, a temporary events bubble for the Hirschhorn Museum (designed by Pritzker Laureate Gordon Bunshaft) on the National Mall in Washington, and a two-building campus for the Business School of Columbia University. Their work on New York’s High Line, in collaboration with Field Operations, is rapidly becoming a landmark, and their surgical reconfigurations of Lincoln Center have been extremely successful and critically acclaimed. I think this might be their year.


7:1 – Steven Holl (American, b. 1947)

Just give it to him already… He’s finished several enormous projects in China in the past two years, and they’ve all been well received. Plus, he finally built the Knut Hamsum Center in Norway after fifteen years on the drawing board. No one is more deserving in my book, but maybe there’s something I just don’t know.


10:1 – David Chipperfield (British, b. 1953)

Chipperfield has recently completed two major European projects: the Barcelona City of Justice, and several renovations and additions to Museum Island in Berlin (which seems neverending). Every time I turn around he’s building another museum, and in the next couple years he’ll finish one each in Saint Louis, in Norway, and in Zurich to name a few. The jury might swing his way this year.



15:1 – Toyo Ito (Japanese, b. 1941)

Ito’s work has remained consistently elegant through many decades of change. While recent projects have become less and less conventional both structurally and organizationally, there has been little change in quality; see in particular his Tama Art University Library and the “White O” House in Chile. If his project for UC Berkeley would have gone through as planned (a revised commission was given to DS+R last summer), he’d be a shoo in.


15:1 — Wolf Prix (Austrian, b. 1946) of Coop Himmelb(l)au

Coop have a few major projects under construction across Asia and Europe. Look for Wolf’s chances to significantly increase in the years to come.


20:1 – Ben Van Berkel (Dutch, b. 1957) of UN Studio

UN Studio seems to have lost a little steam lately. It may be the economy, or that they have a lot on the way. I’m skeptical Van Berkel will be the choice this year, but given the overwhelming success of the Mercedes Benz Museum a couple years back, don’t count him out entirely.


20:1Kengo Kuma (Japanese, b. 1954)

He might have a stronger chance if he stopped going around saying he wants to “erase architecture,” but Kuma’s international profile has increased after winning the commission for the Victoria & Albert branch in Dundee, Scotland. His inventive use of materials and adaptability to local contexts are a welcome alternative to most of the globetrotting practices with whom he competes.


30:1 – Daniel Libeskind (Polish/American, b. 1946)

Libeskind seems to have become the go-to architect for luxury shopping malls in recent years, and his two most recent institutional commissions (the Denver Art Museum and Royal Ontario Museum addition) were both cooly received by press and public alike. I highly doubt the likelihood of his selection.


30:1 – Peter Eisenman (American, b. 1932)

I doubt they’re going to give the award to a 79 year old American iconoclast that hasn’t completed any projects lately. Not many people are enthusiastic about his City of Culture in Spain, and there doesn’t seem to be much else on the drawing board. The jury leans toward architects on the rise, and Peter is on the wane.


5 Comments on “Handicapping the Pritzker Prize, 2011 Edition”

  1. The money has to be on Holl until he actually wins it. I’d have Eisenman a lot higher though. Isn’t it supposed to be a career accomplishment award? No he hasn’t built a lot, or as much as the others, and when he has it often isn’t all that successful, but he’s influenced contemporary architecture and theory as much, if not more then anyone. His contributions as a educator can’t be undervalued too. And this is coming from someone who generally finds himself disagreeing with Eisenman.

    • michaelabrahamson says:

      I agree that Eisenman is deserving, but if you look at the list of winners, the award has more often than not been given to those in their fifties or sixties, with a great deal of work left in them. Plus, I don’t see anyone on the list of jury members (Juhani Pallasmaa, Renzo Piano, Glenn Murcutt, Carlos Jiminez, Alejandro Aravena, + 3 others) who’s particularly sensitive to his abstract theoretical position. I stand by my odds.

  2. Prayash Giria says:

    Charles Correa, anyone? I don’t think he’ll win, but he surely deserves it more than most other architects (in my opinion). His work apart, he’s way too old (give it to him already), has a respectable international profile and has served on the jury as well.

    • michaelabrahamson says:

      I definitely overlooked Correa. He would certainly be deserving. That’s a very good point Prayash.

  3. michaelabrahamson says:

    Unlike two years ago, I failed to predict the outcome. The winner is Eduardo Souto de Moura (Portuguese, b. 1953). Major blunder on my part. Souto de Moura is a perfect example of the type of architect the Pritzker jury typically awards. His projects are engaged with their regional context, but also with larger questions about the minimum limit of architectural effect and expression. It’s a good choice, if not a predictable one.

    Like many other Pritzker winners, Souto de Moura doesn’t have a functioning website, otherwise I would link to it. Needless to say, his work is worth your time.

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