Pritzker Winner Designs to Serve the Public Richard Rogers, who has won architecture's top prize, designs buildings that flaunt their infrastructure — like Centre Pompidou in Paris. But he also has an interest in city planning, and pushes for walkable, welcoming cities. One of his new buildings is part of the World Trade Center site.
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Pritzker Winner Designs to Serve the Public

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Pritzker Winner Designs to Serve the Public

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

One of the most prestigious awards in architecture was announced this afternoon. This year's Pritzker Architecture Prize, worth $100,000, goes to London-based Richard Rogers.

Edward Lifson reports.

EDWARD LIFSON: Have you ever seen those transparent models of the human body that display our arteries and nerves, sometimes with color-coding to show you how everything works. Well, that's what some of Richard Rogers' most famous buildings look like. They're transparent and it shows you the pipes that carry heating and cooling and plumbing and electrical lines. All this in yellows, red, blues, and other bright colors. He did just that in the 1970s with Renzo Piano at the Pompidou Center in Paris. And he designed an inside-out Lloyds of London in that city's normally staid financial district. Having drawn more than his share of controversy, Richard Rogers is pleased to receive a Pritzker.

Mr. RICHARD ROGERS (Architect): It's a happy moment and one hopes it's good for architecture and certainly with all the wonderful people I've worked with. It's terrific.

LIFSON: Just a few years ago, his career took a hit when the huge Millennium Dome he designed for London failed to attract as many visitors as hoped. Last year, his terminal at Madrid's airport was much better received. The roofs undulate, held up by angled columns and his trademark canary yellow and other bright colors. And as in his other projects, such as the Javits Convention Center in New York, the sun shines in through modern, energy-efficient glass.

Mr. ROGERS: Our buildings tend to be full of light. The other important part is the feeling of place and climate change, and how we can create buildings which use the minimum of energy and as clean as possible energy.

LIFSON: Richard Rogers also works on urban master plans worldwide. He advocates high density but user-friendly cities. He says they're more exciting and more environmentally responsible. He calls for better public transportation and places to walk and meet. At 73, Richard Rogers often bicycles to work. He doesn't have to. He's been knighted, has a life seat in the House of Lords, and is a close friend of Tony Blair. Karen Stein, the editorial director of Phaidon Press, is a member of the Pritzker jury.

Ms. KAREN STEIN (Pritzker Jury Member): Richard Rogers has gotten quite involved in shaping policy, and I think that is an appropriate role for an architect, especially today. I mean, he really sees that an architect can be a concerned citizen in the world.

Professor MICHAEL HAYS (Harvard University): Giving the Pritzker to Rogers is giving to someone who still has a commitment to architecture that may go against the grain.

LIFSON: Michael Hays teaches architectural theory at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard.

Prof. HAYS: Architects and clients often find it much easier to seal off commercial spaces from the street, from the city, because there's more control, more visual control, but also more control in terms of security. That's often the easy way out, to privatize what should be public spaces. And I think Rogers insisted in all of his projects on this public dimension.

LIFSON: There's a simple explanation for that, says Richard Rogers.

Mr. ROGERS: Cities have one reason, and that reason is for the meeting of people. And then you need really beautiful places.

LIFSON: He hopes to create one at the World Trade Center site in New York. The other towers there will have smooth facades of taut glass. His will create urban drama by exposing its diagonal bracing, all the way up the sides. And at the base, he wants pedestrian areas with expansive views of the memorial. And he wants benches. Richard Rogers, this year's Pritzker laureate, says a good building must serve its client and the people passing by.

For NPR News, I'm Edward Lifson.

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