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6 Pritzker-Winning Architects on Housing, Climate Change, and the Profession's Future

Previous laureates look into their crystal balls and see both hurdles and reasons to be optimistic

One could reasonably expect to have an enlightening, if staid, time at a panel featuring six Pritzker Prize winners—including 2016 laureate Alejandro Aravena—focused on the immense challenges facing the architectural profession in the 21st century, chief among them climate change and housing.

But the passion and emotion displayed by each panel participant at an event held yesterday evening at the United Nations, in the Finn Juhl-designed, recently restored Trusteeship Council Chamber, was a surprise—and a breath of fresh air.

It makes sense: The hurdles on the horizon—as outlined by panel participants Renzo Piano, Wang Shu, Richard Rogers, Glenn Murcutt, Jean Nouvel, and, of course Aravena himself—also include things like ingrained social and religious prejudice, large-scale migration, and more. Below, highlights from the panel.

Alejandro Aravena, 2016 Pritzker winner, on migration and the urban centers of the future:

"The central question is general migration toward cities. In principle, this is good news. The problem is scale, speed, and scarcity of means."

"It's a mistake to think that if the problem is big, the solution must also be big. Solutions for climate change, waste management, migration...can be engaged by specific architectural designs. Sometimes the answer is an iconic building, sometimes it's a void: a square, a street..."

Australian architect and 2002 Pritzker winner Glenn Murcutt, visibly emotional about confronting prejudice while building a mosque in his native country for a 1,000-member community:

"It is a mosque without a dome, without a minaret, not exclusive but inclusive... In a society that is anti-Islam, [we are] producing a building that helps bring Islam back into the culture."

2007 laureate and British architect Richard Rogers on what architects must avoid to remain relevant:

"We're now in a situation where architects are seen as decorators...putting lipstick on gorillas."

Genoa, Italy and Paris-based Renzo Piano (the 1998 laureate) on cities and the primacy of computers in modern-day design:

"Cities are a place for civic life and protest," [not just high-rise housing and cultural institutions.] "The city of the future is already here. It's the banlieu, it's the "slum."

"I love computers. I hate computer simulations. [My advice to students would be:] Don't trust simulations.

Wang Shu (2012 winner), on China's rapid expansion and its cities' obsession with the new:

"There's an abandonment of history in favor of high-rises towers. Designing a building without context is like building on the moon or Mars."

Alejandro Aravena on Being a Citizen Architect [Curbed]

2016 Pritzker Prize Goes to Alejandro Aravena, Chilean Architect Behind Innovative Affordable Housing [Curbed]