German architect and structural engineer Frei Otto has been announced as this year's winner of architecture's top honor, the Pritzker Prize. The announcement was originally planned for March 23, but it was moved up because the 89-year-old passed away in Germany on Monday.
Recognized for his membranous, lightweight, tensile structures—most notably the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium—Otto was notified of his win earlier this year by Martha Thorne, the prize's executive director. He was, according the New York Times, "blind but otherwise in good health," and replied, "I've never done anything to gain this prize. Prize-winning is not the goal of my life. I try to help poor people, but what shall I say here, I'm very happy." Otto is the first Pritzker laureate to have died before the announcement was made.
In their citation, the jury said that Otto "embraced a definition of architect to include researcher, inventor, form-finder, engineer, builder, teacher, collaborator, environmentalist, humanist, and creator of memorable buildings and spaces." The announcement continues:
Taking inspiration from nature and the processes found there, he sought ways to use the least amount of materials and energy to enclose spaces. He practiced and advanced ideas of sustainability, even before the word was coined. He was inspired by natural phenomena – from birds' skulls to soap bubbles and spiders' webs. He spoke of the need to understand the "physical, biological and technical processes which give rise to objects." Far from a household name, Otto did much of his work in collaboration with other architects and designers, including, in the case of the Japan pavilion for the 2000 Hanover Expo, last year's Pritzker winner Shigeru Ban.
Photos via Pritzker Architecture Prize