Patrik Schumacher says “the Pritzker Prize has mutated into a prize for humanitarian work”

Patrik Schumacher says “the Pritzker Prize has mutated into a prize for humanitarian work”

Patrik Schumacher, director at Zaha Hadid Architects, has taken to architecture and design magazine, Dezeen‘s comments section to criticise Priztker’s 2016 laureate decision to appoint Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena.

“The [political correctness] of architecture is complete,” he wrote. “The Pritzker Prize has mutated into a prize for humanitarian work.”

Quinta Monroy Housing, Iquique, 2004. Photograph by Cristobal Palma

Tom  Pritzker, chairman and president of the Hyatt Foundation which sponsors the prize, said about Aravena after his win had been announced: “Alejandro Aravena has pioneered a collaborative practice that produces powerful works of architecture and also addresses key challenges of the 21st century. His built work gives economic opportunity to the less privileged, mitigates the effects of natural disasters, reduces energy consumption, and provides welcoming public space. Innovative and inspiring, he shows how architecture at its best can improve people’s lives.”

UC Innovation Center at the San Joaquín Campus, Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, 2014. Photograph by Nina Vidic

Schumacher, however, disagrees with the idea of heightening architects for their humanitarian work as this demands that “architecture loses its specific societal task and responsibility”.

Below is Schumacher’s full comment: 

“The PC [political correctness] takeover of architecture is complete: the Pritzker Prize has mutated into a prize for humanitarian work.

The role of the architect is now “to serve greater social and humanitarian needs”, and the new laureate is hailed for “tackling the global housing crisis” and for his concern for the underprivileged.

Architecture loses its specific societal task and responsibility, architectural innovation is replaced by the demonstration of noble intentions and the discipline’s criteria of success and excellence dissolve in the vague do-good-feel-good pursuit of ‘social justice’.

I respect what Alejandro Aravena is doing and his “half a good house” developments are an intelligent response. However, this is not the frontier where architecture and urban design participate in advancing the next stage of our global high-density urban civilisation.

I would not object to this year’s choice half as much if this safe and comforting validation of humanitarian concern was not part of a wider trend in contemporary architecture that in my view signals an unfortunate confusion, bad conscience, lack of confidence, vitality and courage about the discipline’s own unique contribution to the world.”



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