What Is a Pritzker? An Honor for a Living Architect

The Nobel Prize of Architecture

Front and back of the bronze medallion awarded to the Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate.
Front and Back of the Bronze Medallion Awarded to the Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate. Image © The Hyatt Foundation


The Pritzker, or Pritzker Architecture Prize, is an international award given each year to a living architect who, in the opinion of select Pritzker Prize jury, has made profound achievements in the world of architecture. Often called the Nobel Prize of Architecture, the Pritzker is widely considered the highest award an architect can achieve.

History of the Pritzker Prize:

The Pritzker Prize was established in 1979 by Jay A.

Pritzker, (1922-1999) and his wife Cindy Pritzker. The Pritzkers made a fortune by founding the Hyatt hotel chain.The Prize is funded through the Pritzker family's Hyatt Foundation.

Jay Pritzker's immigrant grandparents settled in Chicago, Illinois, which is now the headquarters of the Hyatt Foundation. The Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Music Pavilion has been a public, outdoor music venue since 2004.

Who Are the Pritzker Prize Laureates?

Pritzker Prize winners are called Laureates, similar to Nobel Laureates. The first Pritzker Laureate was American architect Philip Johnson. Winners of the Pritzker are among the most influential architects of modern times. Many of the Laureates have become the most well-known architects worldwide—people like Zaha Hadid, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Norman Foster. See the complete list, with many links to short biographies, at Pritzker Prize Laureates.

How Pritzker Winners Are Selected:

The Pritzker Prize jury has between five and nine members who serve for several years. Pritzker family members and outside observers are not permitted to participate in the selection process. The jury reviews nominations that have been submitted by past winners and other professionals in the field.

The nomination deadline is in November and the jury reaches a decision by the spring. Nominees who don't win are considered for an award the following year.

This is an award for a living architect. The 2015 Pritzker Jury had decided to present the award to Frei Otto, but Otto died before the announcement. Juries since then have tried to make the announcement closer to when their decision is made.

The Pritzker Prize Ceremony:

Every May or June, a Pritzker awards ceremony is held in a different location, always in a building that represents a significant work of architecture. The ceremony is open only to invited guests.

Laureates of the Pritzker Architecture Prize receive $100,000, a certificate, and a bronze medallion. One side of the medal is inscribed with the words firmness, commodity and delight, recalling the principles of architecture described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. They have become the three rules of architecture, and a guide to winning the prize.

Prior to 1987, Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates received a limited edition Henry Moore sculpture instead of the medallion.

Purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize:

To honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

The international prize, which is awarded each year to a living architect/s for significant achievement, was established by the Pritzker family of Chicago through their Hyatt Foundation in 1979. It is granted annually and is often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel” and “the profession’s highest honor.”

The award consists of $100,000 (US) and a bronze medallion. The award is conferred on the laureate/s at a ceremony held at an architecturally significant site throughout the world.

Source: Purpose, Hyatt Foundation [accessed June 10, 2014]

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Craven, Jackie. "What Is a Pritzker? An Honor for a Living Architect." ThoughtCo, Jan. 26, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-a-pritzker-architect-honor-177673. Craven, Jackie. (2017, January 26). What Is a Pritzker? An Honor for a Living Architect. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-pritzker-architect-honor-177673 Craven, Jackie. "What Is a Pritzker? An Honor for a Living Architect." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-pritzker-architect-honor-177673 (accessed November 19, 2017).