Jay and Cindy Pritzker, Chicago natives, were so inspired by the architectural wonders to be found in their home city that they used their influence to establish the Pritzker Prize: arguably the highest honour to be received by an architect.
Since the birth of the award in 1978, the Pritzker Prize has been handed over to some of the greatest architects of our time such as Aldo Rossi (1990), Alvaro Siza (1992), and Frank O. Gehry (1989) to name but a few.
This year’s winner, revered Portguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, has designed buildings the world over, and has graced the Costa Blanca with his talents not once, but twice: The Bernia Golf Resort, Alicante and an apartment building in Benidorm.
58 year-old Souto de Moura was born into a successful family in Porto, Portugal. He remained in his beloved Porto for the duration of his studies at the School of Fine Arts, and eventually achieved a degree in architecture from the prestigious institution. As a student, he worked under architectural greats such as Noé Dinis and Alvaro Siza, and his first commissioned project was a market in Braga which has since been demolished. Sharing his success are his wife, architect Luisa Penha, and his three daughters.
Souto de Moura has not forgotten his roots, and is a professor at the University of Oporto when he is not designing. His works are known to combine several different materials, both manmade and natural. As well as talent, Souto de Moura is a man of conscience, maintaining that he is opposed to the use of endangered and protected materials for his buildings, as he explains in an interview with Croquis: “I think we should use wood in moderation and replant our forests as we use the wood.”
Unlike many of his counterparts, he shows concern for modern social issues such as energy, resources, and costs – an admirable quality in this time of austerity.
It seems that the architect has managed to transfer his social sentience onto his works and it appears to have paid off; The Pritzker Prize jury announced that Souto de Moura had been awarded the honour due in great part to his “unique ability to convey seemingly conflicting characteristics – power and modesty, bravado and subtlety, bold public authority and a sense of intimacy – at the same time.”
Souto de Moura is the second Portuguese architect to be honoured with the Pritzker Prize, and he is not showing any signs of slowing down. With masterpieces such as Portugal’s Braga football stadium under his belt, Souto de Moura epitomises modern architecture. The Costa Blanca is one of a select few areas lucky enough to be graced by the work of this contemporary genius.
Eduardo Souto de Moura photo by Augusto Brázio.