German Architect and Engineer Frei Otto has posthumously received the 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize, after he passed away last week at the age of 89. Mr. Otto becomes the 40th laureate of the prize, and the second laureate from Germany after his Compatriot Gottfried Böhm.
The jury selected Frei Otto as the laureate earlier this year, before his sad passing, and traveled to his home and studio near Stuttgart to deliver the news in person. Learning that he had received the award, Mr. Otto said: ‘I am now so happy to receive this pritzker prize and I thank the jury and the pritzker family very much. I have never done anything to gain this prize. My architectural drive was to design new types of buildings to help poor people, especially following natural disasters and catastrophes. So what shall be better for me than to win this prize? I will use whatever time is left to me to keep doing what I have been doing, which is to help humanity. You have here a happy man.’
Chairman and President of the Hyatt Foundation Tom Pritzker said in a statement: ‘our jury was clear that, in their view, Frei Otto’s career is a model for generations of architects and his influence will continue to be felt. The news of his passing is very sad, unprecedented in the history of the prize. we are grateful that the jury awarded him the prize while he was alive. At this year’s Pritzker Prize Award Ceremony in Miami on May 15 we will celebrate his life and timeless work.’
Frei Otto practiced a holistic and collaborative approach to architecture, working with environmentalists, biologists, engineers, philosophers, historians, naturalists, artists, and other architects. A distinguished teacher and author, Otto pioneered the use of modern lightweight tent-like structures for many uses, which appealed to him due to their economical and ecological values. He believed in making efficient, responsible use of materials, and understood that architecture should have a minimal impact on the environment.
Otto is perhaps best known for the roofing of the main sports facilities at Munich’s 1972 Olympic Park, and for the German Pavilion at Montreal’s Expo 67. The German architect also worked alongside 2014 Pritzker laureate Shigeru Ban on the Japan pavilion at Expo 2000, while he has also been recognized for the work he has completed in the Middle East.
The Chair of the Jury of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Lord Peter Palumbo, commented: ‘time waits for no man. If anyone doubts this aphorism, the death of Frei Otto, a titan of modern architecture, a few weeks short of his 90th birthday, and a few short weeks before his receipt of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in Miami in May, represents a sad and striking example of this truism. His loss will be felt wherever the art of architecture is practiced the world over, for he was a universal citizen; whilst his influence will continue to gather momentum by those who are aware of it, and equally, by those who are not.’
The 2015 award ceremony will be held in Miami beach at the New World Centre, designed by 1989 Pritzker Prize Laureate Frank Gehry, on may 15, 2015.