Richard Rogers wins Pritzker Prize

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From the Better-Late-Than-Never category, Richard Rogers has won the top award in architecture, the Pritzker Prize. He’s 73 and has been practicing for over 40 years.

There was a quote in the NY Times article that I found interesting where he states that he would like to be known for “buildings which are full of light, which are light in weight, which are flexible, which have low energy, which are what we call legible - you can read how the building is put together.” (Alternate link for same story on IHT.com, avoids subscription time-out.)

I’ve never thought that his buildings were that legible, in the sense that one cannot conceptually grasp them easily. They are not easy to read the way a highway sign is. They take some real work.

One of my favorites is his Lloyd’s building in London. I’ve been to the building on many occasions and have seen numerous pictures of it. A cousin of mine used to work in it so I got to see the building from one of the offices off the atrium. My cousin regularly got vertigo, so had to stay away from the glass rail. So aside from living or working near it, I know the building quite well. Yet if I had to sit down and draw it, I would be stumped. It’s a very rich “text” - not a one-liner Hollywood plot with a predictable shape to it, but a Chekhov novel full of unexpected twists and layers and details.

Exposing all the inner workings doesn’t necessarily make something easier to read or understand, often in fact it gets in the way or is even intimidating. But if done right it also allows an object, whether building or product or digital interface, to reveal themselves over time and bring surprise at every turn. Much more interesting than a design which you get all in one go. I expect and hope this is what Sir Rogers was intending.