What does it take to be a famous Architect?

UK architect Rogers wins Pritzker prize

Thursday Mar 29 11:52 AEST

British modernist architect Richard Rogers, who designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris, has won architecture's highest award - the Pritzker Prize.

The 73-year-old Rogers, whose other major works also include the Lloyd's of London headquarters in the City of London and the rainbow-coloured, nearly mile-long Terminal 4 at Barajas airport in Madrid, will receive the $US100,000 ($A124,000) grant for a lifetime of achievement at a ceremony on June 4 inside a prize of British architecture - the Banqueting House, built in 1619 by Indigo Jones.

In announcing Rogers' selection, Thomas Pritzker, president of the US-based Hyatt Foundation, said, "Rogers is a champion of urban life and believes the potential of the city to be a catalyst for social change."

Pritzker jury chairman, Lord Palumbo, called Rogers not only a master of the large urban building but the creator of his own brand of architectural Expressionism.

Lord Palumbo said the high-tech Pompidou Centre, designed in partnership with Renzo Piano and completed in 1977, was a work that revolutionised museums, turning them from elitist monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange.

In an interview with Reuters, Rogers said that he and Piano turned out creating what the public called "a fun palace" just a short walk from the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral, though they certainly did not know it at the time.

Their 92,900-square-metre modernist museum shocked Paris by putting the inner workings of a building outside in the street for all to see - including having "exterior" escalators enclosed in a transparent tube.

It was a public space that defied comparison as it combined a museum of modern art, a library, a design and a music centre along with a huge array of shops.
After first turning up their noses, the French public reversed itself and flocked to the centre at a rate of seven million visitors a year.

"Up to doing the centre, I had built a few houses, but Renzo and I entered the competition to build the centre because we figured two unemployed people would have more fun than one.
"It was like going from writing a pamphlet to writing 1,000 pages of a classical work. The French were pretty tough and the international press, except for one critic, hated the building," Rogers said, adding:
"Our concept was that the building would be legible - that the public could read how the structure supports the building, how the columns fit, how the wiring goes. We were keen on lightness, flexibility and a sense of space. We wanted a space for all people, all creeds, all ages."

They got it but their immediate reward was unemployment. Rogers said that except for teaching he was out of work for two years. "Nobody else wanted a Pompidou Centre after we finished."

But people wanted a new Lloyd's of London, and Rogers won the competition to design it, turning it into one of his masterpieces and the building that brought him new business.
"We can select what we want to work on but it has taken me about 50 years to get here. When I was being beaten up for the Pompidou, I never thought I'd be here," he said.

Among the projects he is working on is Tower 3 at the World Trade Centre site in New York.
"I believe that skyscrapers should scrape the sky so I want to make the tower soar and make it look as thin as possible, even doing the corners of the building in glass."


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