By honoring Renzo Piano, the Pritzker jury has violated an unwritten rule. Only architects given to art or discourse could until now aspire to the award, to the tacit exclusion of those with engineering or technological inclinations. Up to this edition, Pritzker winners exhibited either an artistic dimension, such as Frank Gehry or Álvaro Siza; a theoretical vocation, like Aldo Rossi or Robert Venturi; or both things at once, as in the case of Rafael Moneo. None of these could ever be accused of an excessive connivance with the engineering world. The decision to give the prize to the Genoese architect breaks this absurd and obsolete taboo, generously broadening the horizons of the Pritzker and significantly reinforcing its legitimacy.
Renzo Piano is, indeed, a builder with an inventive disposition and a populistic sensibility, many of whose ideas have come from ship design and natural organisms, from shells to skeletons; his long-time collaboration with the late British engineer Peter Rice yielded some of the most radically original buildings of the past decades; and his apparent disdain for the visual arts has given rise to several of the most dazzling artistic forms to be found in contemporary architecture, from the lyrical concrete flower of Bari’s soccer stadium, in his native Italy, to the colossal metal wave of Kansai Airport, in the Japanese bay of Osaka...[+]