French architect Portzamparc wins Pritzker prize

May 03, 1994|By Herbert Muschamp | Herbert Muschamp,New York Times News Service

Christian de Portzamparc, architect of the City of Music conservatory in Paris and a number of apartment buildings there, has been awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize for 1994, it was announced Sunday by the Hyatt Foundation, sponsors of the award.

Mr. Portzamparc, who is 49 and lives in Paris, is the first French architect to receive the Pritzker Prize, widely considered xTC architecture's most prestigious. Born in Morocco in 1944, he is also the first Pritzker laureate of the generation that grew up after World War II.

Unusually, for an internationally prominent architect of his age, Mr. Portzamparc is better known for buildings than for theoretical or unbuilt projects.

Since the early 1970s, Mr. Portzamparc has completed more than 20 buildings in France.

In addition to the City of Music, one of the Grands Projets initiated by Francois Mitterrand, these include the Erik Satie Conservatory of Music and the Hautes-Formes housing complex, both in Paris, and the Dance School of the Paris Opera in Nanterre.

A boomerang-shaped office tower designed by Mr. Portzamparc for the city of Lille will be completed later this year.

Though Mr. Portzamparc has built little outside France, his buildings have drawn wide attention for their confident, urbane synthesis of modern and traditional forms.

At a moment when many architects are weary of "style wars," Mr. Portzamparc has pointed the way toward an appealing esthetic fusion. He has described Le Corbusier, the pioneer modernist, as a major influence on his work.

The citation from the Pritzker Prize jury praises Mr. Portzamparc for absorbing ideas from the classical French Beaux-Arts school, where he was educated in the 1960s.

Mr. Portzamparc's fluid, boldly sculptural design for the City of Music recalls the work of Oscar Niemeyer, chief architect of Brasilia.

Frank Gehry, a jury member who received the Pritzker Prize in 1989, said the jury also wished to recognize the French government's patronage of younger architects.

"It's remarkable that someone who is barely 50 has done such a large amount of important work," Mr. Gehry said. "That rarely happens in the United States. The French are very proud of their young architects. Mitterrand has made a point of knowing many of them personally, and there's a system to support them."

In addition to Mr. Gehry, the Pritzker Prize jury members are Giovanni Agnelli, J. Carter Brown, Charles Correa, Ada Louise Huxtable, Toshio Nakamura and Lord Rothschild. The prize, along with a $100,000 grant, is to be awarded to Mr. Portzamparc at a ceremony on June 14 in Columbus, Ind.

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