In case noone noticed, the world economy collapsed in 2008. At the time, young architects were totally absorbed by computer-generated structures, blob-itecture, and what we at Barkitecture call “Swooshiness.” Zaha Hadid was the crown princess.
The following year, the Pritzker Prize was awarded to Peter Zumthor. Things had changed and the jury sent a warning shot. “The architecture world,” they were quoted as saying, “needs to cut the crap. Does anyone remember how to build on the cheap?”
So, sword through our hearts, we tried to emulate the poet-architect. But we were doomed to fail. Frankly, nothing was getting built, so the architecture world kept producing shiny renderings. Scale continued to mean nothing. Curves were everywhere.
Last year, they tried to sound the alarm once again by giving the prize to Eduardo Souto de Moura. But that didn’t work. Now that things may be picking up a little in the US, they’re still slowing down everywhere else, and the Pritzker people were clearly worried. So based upon the choice to award Wang Shu this year’s Pritzker, the jury is laying a huge guilt trip on us for not listening. And that jury included Ms. Hadid!
Wang Shu, though especially young for a Laureate, has a substantial body of work. More importantly, he spent several years working in construction before starting Amateur Architecture Studio with his wife, Lu Wenyu. Their bold, sometimes massive designs utilize the knowledge gained from working with local builders and craftspeople. Do you hear that, unemployed masses? Find a job building something with your hands.
Wang’s designs also reflect history in their design, not just construction materials. The finest example is the Ningbo History Museum, which is meant to recreate in spirit an old fortress. The Koolhaas from the days of “Context” would be proud. The Koolhaas from the days of Seattle (Seattle Library) and Spain (Casa da Musica), not so much.
For more photos, follow this link to images in the LA Times: Architecture of China, Wang Shu