Architect Eduardo Souto De Moura Wins Pritzker

Originally published on May 23, 2012 12:01 pm

The 2011 Pritzker Architecture Prize goes to Eduardo Souto de Moura, a Portuguese architect who blends modernism with tradition and history. Souto de Moura, 58, has built mostly in his home country and was previously not well-known in the United States.

Souto de Moura is known for incorporating local history, context and landscape into his work. The jury praised his buildings for having "a unique ability to convey seemingly conflicting characteristics — power and modesty, bravado and subtlety, bold public authority and sense of intimacy — at the same time."

In Western Europe he has designed everything from homes to museums to a stadium in Braga, Portugal. One side of the stadium ends at a mountain — the architect had the rock dynamited with artistic precision, blending the crushed granite into the stadium's concrete. The Pritzker jury described the stadium as "muscular, monumental and very much at home within its powerful landscape."

The Pritzker Prize — often called "Architecture's Nobel" — was expected to be announced in early April, but a Spanish newspaper leaked the news on Monday.

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Now let's hear about someone who keeps his infrastructure simple: the winner of this year's Pritzker Prize for Architecture. He's a Portuguese architect, not too well-known in the U.S. His pictures are straight forward and draw on local traditions. Edward Lifson reports.

EDWARD LIFSON: Eduardo Souto de Moura is a modern minimalist and what sets him apart is how he incorporates local history, context and landscape into his work. He uses simple shapes and geometries, and straight lines, like many Portuguese vernacular buildings. So unlike a lot of architecture that gets attention today, his would probably not wow you as a drawing or a model. It must be experienced; and most of it stands proudly in the bright sun and culture of his home country of Portugal. .TEXT: Mr. TERENCE RILEY (Former Chief Curator): When he showed me the stadium in Braga, which is probably one of his most eloquent buildings...

LIFSON: Terence Riley is the former chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Mr. RILEY: Its built right into a rocky slope. Its as much a landscape project as it is a stadium.

LIFSON: Souto de Moura dynamited the mountain to make it one end of the stadium. He mixed the crushed granite into the concrete. But beyond any kind of physical beauty, its also the social concern that really pleases Terence Riley.

Mr. RILEY: He took great care to site the building, so that those who couldnt afford to pay to buy a ticket, could climb up on the rocky slopes around the stadium, and get a free view from there. And he pointed out that its a tradition in Portuguese stadiums, that you try to create an opportunity for those who cannot afford a ticket to get a view from outside.

LIFSON: At age 58, Souto de Moura has designed homes, offices, a subway, museums, schools and more. The Pritzker jury ended its citation with this: For architecture that appears effortless, serene, and simple, and for the care and poetry that permeates each project, Eduardo Souto de Moura receives the 2011 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

For NPR News, Im Edward Lifson

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