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Otto Awarded 1st Posthumous Pritzker

Thursday, March 12, 2015

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The day after his death at age 89, German architect and engineer Frei Otto received one of his profession's greatest honors: the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Otto was a visionary whose body of work has influenced countless others throughout the world, according to the Pritzker jury’s citation, announced Tuesday (March 10).

Frei Otto
© The Pritzker Architecture Prize / Hyatt Foundation

Frei Otto has received the 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The architect died Monday (March 9) in Germany at age 89.

A pioneer of modern, airy, lightweight structures, Otto believed that architecture should make a minimal impact on the environment.

“He has embraced a definition of architect to include researcher, inventor, form-finder, engineer, builder, teacher, collaborator, environmentalist, humanist, and creator of memorable buildings and spaces,” the jurors said.

‘A Happy Man’

The Pritzker Architecture Prize, sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation, is one of architecture’s most prestigious awards. This is the first time that a winner has passed away before the announcement was made, the committee said.

Munich Olympic Park
© Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn

Otto is described as a "titan of modern architecture," well known for his open, lightweight, tent-like structures. His projects include the large-scale roofs for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

However, Otto learned of the honor earlier this year when the Pritzker executive director flew to his home near Stuttgart, Germany, to deliver the news.

“I have never done anything to gain this prize,” he said at that time. “My architectural drive was to design new types of buildings to help poor people especially following natural disasters and catastrophes.

Multihalle in Mannheim
© Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn

Otto's notable works include the Mannheim Mutihalle, built in 1974.

“[…] I will use whatever time is left to me to keep doing what I have been doing, which is to help humanity. You have here a happy man.”

Noted Projects, Award Ceremony

The architect’s best-known projects include the cable net structure at German Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, the large-scale roofs for the 1972 Munich Olympics, and the Mannheim Mutihalle in 1974.

1967 International and Universal Expo
© Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn

His portfolio also included the large cable net structure at German Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal.

He was also an inspiration to last year’s Pritzker laureate, Japanese designer Shigeru Ban. Ban and Otto collaborated on the design of the Japan Pavilion at the Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany.

Otto's work will be celebrated at an award ceremony May 15 at the New World Center in Miami Beach.

The ceremony will be streamed live on


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architecture; Asia Pacific; Awards and honors; Color + Design; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Europe; Latin America; North America; Pritzker Architecture Prize

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