SANAA Win 2010 Pritzker for Weightless, Flowing Rolex Center
The Japanese firm SANAA has won the 2010 Pritzker Architectural Prize for their utopian, ethereal, Rolex Learning center building at Lausanne University in Switzerland. Annually the prize goes to the architect whose talent, vision and commitment represents a consistent and significant contribution to humanity and the built environment.
SANAA, (Sejima And Nishizawa And Associates) was formed by Kazuyo Sejima, who with her younger assistant Rye Nishizawa was selected: “For architecture that is simultaneously delicate and powerful, precise and fluid, ingenious but not overly or overtly clever; for the creation of buildings that successfully interact with their contexts and the activities they contain; for creating a sense of fullness and experiential richness; for a singular architectural language that springs from a collaborative process that is both unique and inspirational; and for their notable completed buildings and the promise of new projects together.”
One controversial example of their work is the seemingly about-to-topple stack of stories in their The New Museum in New York City. It now seems prescient, as if forecasting the recent catastrophic financial collapse of real estate.
In the Rolex Learning Center, named after the watch manufacturer who footed the bill for the structure, they break a different kind of barrier.
The university needed a courtyard or connecting place between the other university buildings. Within this center, reticent, gently undulating floors are intended to facilitate the organic ebb and flow of spontaneous congregations crisscrossing it during the daily life at the university.
The apparent ease and grace of the structure is based on an underpinning of rigorous engineering.
The huge spans of the concrete floors with no apparent load-bearing means of support created a real engineering challenge. Gigantic trusses were not an option. The floors had to be constructed like a series of big, low, broad domes.