Food for thought: 2010 Pritzker Prize – SANAA


exterior view of the Pritzer pavilion

The 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates were announced this week.

“The Pritzker Architecture Prize was established by the Hyatt Foundation in 1979 to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. It has often been described as ‘architecture’s most prestigious award’ or as ‘the Nobel of architecture.'”

This year, for only the third time in its history, the prize was awarded to two architects instead of one. Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa have been working together for over 15 years; together these two Japanese architects form SANAA and their work is so collaborative that it is impossible to see where one creative genius ends and one begins.

In light of this award, we have been discussing their work here at Tocci. It is not an easy analysis. Their designs are seemingly straightforward, simple shapes, almost all white or glass. Sometimes they seem effortlessly graceful, and sometimes they seem like awkward, blocky shapes just plopped down in unforgiving surroundings. Here are a few of the comments from Tocci employees:

Even though some of the shapes introduced are irregular, the joinery is so clean that the beauty of the materials themselves is celebrated or presented to the user in a new way. How often do you see seemingly thin concrete walls with large penetrations, with no other structure expressed at the exterior, in room 6 stories high, with no decoration where you can actually say, that is beautiful…? There is something very clean and refreshing about the space/ buildings they design…


I actually like their work.  I think the description of deceptively simple is accurate (I’ve attempted the same analogy regarding our VDC/IPD deliveries).  The Fluid design using exquisitely formed concrete in the Rolex Learning center is peaceful and flowing – to me, it’s artful design expressed with humility…  I don’t care for the school of management—out of scale, like a concrete cube dropped from the sky, come crashing to earth almost hitting a railroad…There is significant diversity in their work as well.  The Dutch theater is classic modernist, the Dior building is a feathery jewel box—they seem to be just as facile with organic forms as with rigid, primitive geometry.


I’ve only really seen the Toledo Glass Pavilion, but it is unbelievably elegant. Like SANAA’s other projects it is a simple, uncompromised idea that results in beautiful spaces with beautiful effects.