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Design

The First Pritzker Prize for a Chinese Architect

This year’s Pritzker committee honors Wang Shu’s down-to-earth architecture.
March 5, 2012, 7:37pm

The Pritzker Prize is the most prestigious architecture award in the world. Awarded annually to “a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture,” last week, the committee revealed their winner for this year. Chinese architect Wang Shu has thus made his name as the first Chinese citizen to be awarded the Pritzker Prize. Following the legendary I.M. Pei, Wang is the second ethnic Chinese Pritzker winner since 1983.

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The current dean of the architecture department at the China Academy of Art, Wang Shu was born in Urumchi, and received his Masters and PhD consecutively at the Nanjing Institute of Technology and Tongji University. After spending his early years researching and gaining on-site experience with craftsmen and other professionals, Shu started his official practice, Amateur Architecture Studio with his wife in 1997.

The studio's aspirations were quickly acknowledged. Focusing on the exploration of contemporary projects based on Chinese traditions, their works stirred up a crucial debate on the context of China’s massive urbanization.

Wang Shu's signature works include the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum, the Xiangshan Campus of China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou, and the Library of Wenzheng College. Perhaps his most famous work is the Ningbo Historic Museum. Bringing together a number of his core architectural ideas, the building was built with recycled construction materials from the area and presented in a modern and dynamic form where its earthly beauty is matched only by its humble functionality. The same idea was then planted into the Xiangshan Campus, using two million pieces of old tiles and bricks from demolished traditional houses for its construction.

Ningbo Historic Museum

Of Wang Shu’s work, noted entrepreneur Jay A. Pritzker says, "The fact that an architect from China has been selected by the jury represents a significant step in acknowledging the role that China will play in the development of architectural ideals. In addition, over the coming decades China's success at urbanization will be important to China and to the world. This urbanization, like urbanization around the world, needs to be in harmony with local needs and culture. China's unprecedented opportunities for urban planning and design will want to be in harmony with both its long and unique traditions of the past and with its future needs for sustainable development."

The ceremony for the Pritzker Prize will be held in Beijing on May 25.

Imagine Courtesy of lv hengzhong and Iwan Baan