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The reconquest of silence: The Pritzker Prize

“It is alarming that publications devoted to architecture have banished from their pages the words Beauty, Inspiration, Magic, Spellbound, Enchantment, as well as the concepts of Serenity, Silence, Intimacy and Amazement All these have nestled in my soul, and though I am fully aware that I have not done them complete justice in my work, they have never ceased to be my guiding lights.”

Luis Barragán, 1980 Laureate. Acceptance Speech

As Barragán well expressed in his very recommendable speech, the written architecture has been taking pagan concepts for years, descriptive and quantifiable concepts that leave no place for the esoteric magic cited by the Mexican architect. The beauty -in the eye of the beholder- has moved to the background and the images let the spectator walk in the building almost in first person.


Kamala House, India, 1963 – Selected works from Pritzker Prize Archive

Thirty-eight years have passed since the words of Barragán, and after the pleasantly surprising prize awarded to RCR in 2017, the Pritzker Prize has made himself a halo of mediatic expectation in this year. Finally, it has been conceded to the Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, the oldest awarded in the history of the prize. The youngests of us -and many of the grown- changed our expectation to interrogation after heard the news.

Further than collaborations with great architectural referents, and an spotless professional and docent career, the award seemed aimed to an “old school” that had nothing to say after the last years prizes -RCR, Aravena and many others-. Names like Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn sound now regressive and closer to Architecture History Books than to a contemporary international prize.


Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (photo courtesy of VSF) – Selected works from Pritzker Prize Archive

A distinguish career

Nothing further from reality. The Doshi’s Pritzker talk about tradition and identity, “folklore”, but also about innovation and investigation. It is an award to an icebreaker: A philosophy based on the environment’s human and natural identity, giving place to an timeless architecture: That anthropically primitive is a perfect answer to our contemporary problems; and a career dedicated to investigation and teaching carried to practice has made this Indian architect realize.

This is the best moment to remind us this, when the eye in the future is becoming the only eye, and the past seems a vast and illogical time. The best moment to a person extracted from this past and a assumedly overcome generation to come again to our present and give us this lesson: Memory has not an expiration date, and the answers from the past are valid in the present too, seen from a new eye. Quoting one last time to Barragan, and this one again to O’Gorman: “The irrational logic harboured in the myths and in all true religious experience has been the fountainhead of the artistic process at all times and in all places”.


Aranya Low Cost Housing (drawing courtesy of VSF) – Selected works from Pritzker Prize Archive

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