Though having moved on to more inclusive cultural commentary, the itch of once being an architecture and design critic occasionally needs to be scratched, as I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere..
So it was when a prestigious architectural award, the Pritzker Prize, recently elbowed its way into the news, no small feat in these Trumpian dominated days.
What compels me to lend a perspective at this time is I sense the award just may be an indication that the profession is shifting away from the recent obnoxious obsession with celebrity architecture to more socially responsible concerns.
Particularly so in L.A., where architects seemed to have been more interested in self promoting, stand alone projects, rather than serving users and the public.
Considered architecture’s highest honor, and with a stipend of $100,000 certainly the profession’s most rewarding the latest Pritzker went to India’s Balkrishna Doshi, who is known in the Asian sub continent for his sustainable, low cost projects, and being an architect for the poor.
According to a statement by the prize jury, Doshi’s solutions correctly address the social, environmental and economic dimensions, constantly demonstrating that “all good architecture and urban planning must not only unite purpose and structure but take into account climate, site, technique, and craft, along with a deep understanding and appreciation of context.” In sum, that they be sustainable and social responsible.
Indeed from my liberal perspective, for the last several years it seems the coveted Pritzker prize has gone to architects with decidedly humanitarian predispositions, practicing in what could be described as design back waters, far from the limelight of the world cities.
I note it been more than a dozen years, since 2005, that an American has won, or for that matter any over blown personality that could be described as a star architect.
How refreshing, for when I was struggling as the architecture critic for the LA Times championing relevant urban design I felt the profession was preoccupied with how projects looked to a few peers rather than worked; that they were increasingly irrelevant, relegating architecture to a cultural sideshow.
To be sure, it was at times diverting. But I found the drive for celebrity status ultimately was corrupting, and that includes self aggrandizing schools and their impressionable students and faculty, fawning foundations and undiscerning media camp followers.
That it appears for now the Pritzker has broken this design daisy chain deserves praise, and hopefully might just help edge architecture back to its noble calling of designing spaces and places for human endeavor.