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winner of this year’s Pritzker Prize

Ceramic House © Lv Hengzhong, Courtesy of Amateur Architecture Studio


, Chinese architect and founder of Amateur Architecture Studio, has been just announced as the recipient of the 2012 Pritzker Prize.

The ’s purpose is “to honor a living architect 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”.

In my opinion Wang Shu’s architecture presents a contemporary and progressive approach that acknowledges the rich tradition of Chinese architecture. As the future generations of Chinese architects are influenced by his architecture, a generation that will be an active part of China’s growth, he will indirectly improve how millions will live in the next few years.

He calls his office Amateur Architecture Studio, but the work is that of a virtuoso in full command of the instruments of architecture — form, scale, material, space and light 

– Karen Stein, Pritzker Prize jury.

Wang Shu, a 48 year old architect whose architectural practice is based in Hangzhou, The People’s Republic of China, will be the recipient of the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize, it was announced today by Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation which sponsors the prize. The formal ceremony for what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture’s highest honor will be in Beijing on May 25.

In announcing the jury’s choice, Pritzker elaborated, “The fact that an architect from China has been selected by the jury, represents a significant step in acknowledging the role that China will play in the development of architectural ideals. In addition, over the coming decades China’s success at urbanization will be important to China and to the world. This urbanization, like urbanization around the world, needs to be in harmony with local needs and culture. China’s unprecedented opportunities for urban planning and design will want to be in harmony with both its long and unique traditions of the past and with its future needs for sustainable development.”

Ningbo History Museum © Lv Hengzhong, Courtesy of Amateur Architecture Studio

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, is to honor annually a living architect 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 laureates receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo, spoke from his home in the United Kingdom, quoting from the jury citation that focuses on the reasons for this year’s choice: “The question of the proper relation of present to past is particularly timely, for the recent process of urbanization in China invites debate as to whether architecture should be anchored in tradition or should look only toward the future. As with any great architecture, Wang Shu ́s work is able to transcend that debate, producing an architecture that is timeless, deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.”

Wang earned his first degree in architecture at the Nanjing Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture in 1985. Three years later, he received his Masters Degree at the same institute. When he first graduated from school, he went to work for the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou doing research on the environment and architecture in relation to the renovation of old buildings. Nearly a year later, he was at work on his first architectural project – the design of a 3600 square meter Youth Center for the small town of Haining (near Hangzhou). It was completed in 1990.

For nearly all of the next ten years, he worked with craftsmen to gain experience at actual building and have no responsibility for design. In 1997, Wang Shu and his wife, Lu Wenyu, founded their professional practice in Hangzhou, naming it “Amateur Architecture Studio.” He explains the name, “For myself, being an artisan or a craftsman, is an amateur or almost the same thing.” His interpretation of the word is relatively close to one of the unabridged dictionary’s definitions: “a person who engages in a study, sport or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons”. In Wang Shu’s interpretaion, the word “pleasure” might well be replaced by “love of the work”.

© Iwan Baan

By the year 2000, he had completed his first major project, the Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University. In keeping with his philosophy of paying scrupulous attention to the environment, and with careful consideration of traditions of Suzhou gardening which suggests that buildings located between water and mountains should not be prominent, he designed the library with nearly half of the building underground. Also, four additional buildings are much smaller than the main body. In 2004, the library received the Architecture Art Award of China.

His other major projects completed, all in China, include in 2005, the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum and five scattered houses in Ningbo which received acknowledgment from the Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction in the Asia Pacific. In that same city, he completed the Ningbo History Museum in 2008. In his native city of Hangzhou, he did the first phase of the Xingshan Campus of the China Academy of Art in 2004, and then completed phase two of the same campus in 2007.

True to his methods of the economy of materials, he salvaged over two million tiles from demolished traditional houses to cover the roofs of the campus buildings. That same year in Hangzhou, he built the Vertical Courtyard Apartments, consisting of six 26-storey towers, which was nominated in 2008 for the German based International High-Rise Award. Also finished in 2009 in Hangzhou, was the Exhibition Hall of the Imperial Street of Southern Song Dynasty. In 2006, he completed the Ceramic House in Jinhua.

Other international recognition includes the French Gold Medal from the Academy of Architecture in 2011. The year before, both he and his wife, Lu Wenyu, were awarded the German Schelling Architecture Prize.

Since 2000, Wang Shu has been the head of the Architecture Department of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, the institution where he did research on the environment and architecture when he first graduated from school. Last year, he became the first Chinese architect to hold the position of “Kenzo Tange Visiting Professor” at Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is also a frequent visiting lecturer at many universities around the world, including in the United States: UCLA, Harvard, University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania, He has participated in a number of major international exhibitions in Venice, Hong Kong, Brussels, Berlin and Paris.

Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum © Lv Hengzhong, Courtesy of Amateur Architecture Studio

Upon learning that he was being honored, Wang Shu had this reaction: “This is really a big surprise. I am tremendously honored to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. I suddenly realized that I’ve done many things over the last decade. It proves that earnest hard work and persistence lead to positive outcomes.”

The distinguished jury that selected the 2012 Pritzker Laureate consists of its chairman, The Lord Palumbo, internationally known architectural patron of London, chairman of the trustees, Serpentine Gallery, former chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, former chairman of the Tate Gallery Foundation, and former trustee of the Mies van der Rohe Archive at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and alphabetically: Alejandro Aravena, architect and executive director of Elemental in Santiago, Chile; Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Washington, D.C.; Yung Ho Chang, architect and educator, Beijing, The People’s Republic of China; Zaha Hadid, architect and 2004 Pritzker Laureate; Glenn Murcutt, architect and 2002 Pritzker Laureate of Sydney, Australia; Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, professor and author of Helsinki, Finland; and Karen Stein, writer, editor and architectural consultant in New York. Martha Thorne, associate dean for external relations, IE School of Architecture, Madrid, Spain, is the executive director of the prize.

(ARCH DAILY  2.27.12)

more projects by Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio here


a history…


That a paint salesman from northern Illinois created the tool through which rebels, gang members, artists and anti-Wall Street protesters alike have expressed themselves merely confirms that inventors can neither control nor predict the impact of their innovations. After all, Jack Dorsey never imagined that Twitter would facilitate Anthony Weiner’s self-immolation.

The spray-paint can, however, has eminently practical origins. Ed Seymour, the proprietor of a Sycamore, Ill., paint company, was in search of an easy way to demonstrate his aluminum coating for painting radiators. His wife suggested a makeshift spray gun, like those used for deodorizers. And so, in 1949, Seymour mixed paint and aerosol in a can with a spray head. As it turned out, compressing paint in a can made for a nice finish.


Seymour’s humble creation quickly proved so popular that Seymour of Sycamore began customizing its own manufacturing equipment and eventually expanded into new businesses, including the auto and industrial-machine markets. Soon afterward, home-furnishing heavyweights like Rust-Oleum and Krylon jumped in. And by 1973, Big Spray was producing 270 million cans annually in the U.S., according to the Consumer Specialty Products Association. Last year, U.S. spray-paint manufacturers produced 412 million cans.

By this time, of course, aerosol spray paint had begun to forge an industry beyond home improvements and quickie D.I.Y. projects. As the safety pin did with punk, it eventually transcended its utilitarian roots. Early nonradiator-painting devotees tended to split into two camps: protesters and vandals. While it is impossible to determine the first student or activist to aim an aerosol paint can at cardboard or buildings, forefathers of the latter include Cornbread and Julio 204, the Philadelphia- and New York-based artist-defacers, who took advantage of the technology to make their tags (né names) well known in the ’60s and ’70s. Spray paint, after all, was the ideal medium for this form of branding. It came in small, easy-to-conceal, easy-to-steal cans. It was paint and brush in one. It dried quickly. It worked well on building materials and subway cars. More important, perhaps, the imprecise application lent it an inherent disregard. Its inability to be perfectly controlled also made it an apt metaphor for rebellion. In other words, it was pretty badass.


Public outrage, and laws restricting spray paint sales to teenagers, ensued. Though not all enthusiasts were deterred. “There was a Red Devil spray-paint factory in Mount Vernon, which is near where the 2 and 5 trains end in the Bronx,” says the graffiti artist Caleb Neelon wistfully. “There are a couple of great, legendary stories about breaking into that factory for the ultimate shoplifting.”

According to Neelon, who, with Roger Gastman, wrote “The History of American Graffiti,” there were not a lot of options for high-quality spray paints in those days. The American spray-paint giants like Krylon and Rust-Oleum resisted tapping into the graffiti-artist market, refusing to upgrade their colors or valves to allow for more creative tagging. In recent years, however, graffiti’s outlaw status has been softened a bit through the auction circuit’s embrace of guerrilla art. In 2006, Angelina Jolie paid $226,000 for a painting called “Picnic,” by Banksy, an artist who made his name through graffiti. The painting features starving Africans watching a white family picnic. Banksy’s “Keep It Spotless” sold for $1.8 million two years later.


In the late ’90s, serious graffiti writers noticed the influx of higher-quality paints made by European companies. “Honestly, if you win the graffiti prize and you get to take home a palette of different colors of either American or European spray paint,” Neelon said, “you’re taking the European.” The European paints now come in colors with names like quince and Mad C Psycho Pink and attributes like weather resistance and UV-protection.

Companies like Montana, based in Spain; Molotow, based in Germany; and Ironlak, based in Australia, were pleased to associate with street artists. They offered professional-grade enhancements too, like different kinds of valves that emit different types of mists. (Some artists now complain that American alternatives are like buying a tube of paint with only one brush.) “The control you can get with the can, from the pressure, is phenomenal,” Gastman said.

Such innovation is not without blowback. Some spray writers dismiss the European brands as “fancy paint,” and in pursuit of lost authenticity, stick to Krylon, which is based in Ohio, and Rust-Oleum, which is located outside Chicago. “American writers really want to be loyal to Rusto,” Neelon said. “Rust-Oleum is like the Ford F-150 of spray paint. It’s the workingman’s paint.”

(NY TIMES  11.4.11)


ART IN CINEMA part 5: “cosmic cinema”…


Jordan Belson is an enigma and a legend of the experimental film world. He has produced a remarkable body of over 33 abstract films over six decades, richly woven with cosmological imagery, exploring consciousness, transcendence, and the nature of light itself. His films have been called “cosmic cinema,” and the imagery is not terrestrial — it is of skies, galaxies, halos, suns, stars, auroras. He works with a vocabulary of film images he’s created since the 1940s, but does not use computers. He withdrew his films from distribution decades ago, thus many are difficult to see. Belson doesn’t give interviews, write about his work, or discuss his methods, leaving the viewer to derive his/her own experiences and meanings from his films. He states, “The films are not meant to be explained, analyzed, or understood. They are more experiential, more like listening to music.” (1992–94 interview with Scott MacDonald)

Belson has decades-long ties to the museum, so we’re pleased to bring his work back to the museum on October 14, with new preservation prints and some rarely screened early films. In fact, some of Belson’s major influences were films and kinetic light art exhibited at SFMOMA (then the San Francisco Museum of Art) in the 1940s–60s.

Born in Chicago, Belson moved to San Francisco at age seven. He attended Galileo, then Lincoln High, studied painting at the California School of Fine Art (now San Francisco Art Institute), and received a B.A. in Fine Arts from UC Berkeley in 1946. He was first a painter, until he attended the seminal Art in Cinema series at the museum from 1946–53. Art in Cinema exposed the San Francisco cinema community to European avant-garde films and new American experimental films. It was here that many young artists first saw films by Oskar Fischinger, the Whitney Brothers, the European surrealists, and the French avant-garde. Art in Cinema had a profound effect on Bay Area artists and painters, some of whom were inspired to make films.

Belson especially appreciated Fischinger’s films (calling him “one of my heroes”); the work of Norman McLaren; and Hans Richter’s Rhythmus 21 (1921–25). Belson made two short animated films in 1947–48, shown in later Art in Cinema programs; however, he still considered himself primarily a painter. Belson’s painting and film work soon merged with films he made with scroll paintings, including Caravan (1952).

In 1953 Belson attended Fischinger’s performance of his Lumigraph (a mechanical color-light performance instrument) at the museum. The Lumigraph was performed in pitch darkness, and Fischinger created what he called “fantastic color plays” with spontaneous movements of colored light dancing to accompanying music. Belson was struck by the simple elegance and the mysterious soft, glowing images. Similarly, Belson later saw one of Thomas Wilfred’s Lumia color-light machines exhibited at SFMA, which became an influence on his later work.

A few years after Art in Cinema, Belson and Henry Jacobs created the legendary Vortex Concerts.

In May 1957 the first Vortex Concert was held at the California Academy of Science’s Morrison Planetarium. Featuring new electronic music from avant-garde composers worldwide curated by composer/DJ Henry Jacobs, Vortex was described by Belson (as visual director) as “a series of electronic music concerts illuminated by various visual effects.” In the blackness of the planetarium’s 65-foot dome, Belson created spectacular illusions, layering abstract patterns, lighting effects, and cosmic imagery, at times using up to 30 projection devices.

Belson filmed interference-projector patterns for Vortex, and later used some of these patterns in Séance (1959) and Allures (1961).

Vortex was an immediate success, and five Vortex series were performed through 1959, with over 38 concerts. Unfortunately, planetarium management did not share the press’s and audiences’ enthusiasm, and cancelled in 1959. The Vortex legacy is evident in 1960s psychedelic light shows, live multiple-projector shows, and VJ culture. Belson has even been called the first VJ!

Belson and Jacobs tried to remount Vortex, but were unable to find a venue and sufficient backing. In October 1959 Belson and Jacobs presented a “concert of electronic music and non-objective film” called Vortex Presents at the SFMA. This was a very different, single-screen event. Belson screened early versions of films he was working on, including one which became Allures, plus films by others. Only one evening of Vortex Presents occurred; though it was planned as a series, the audience reaction was disappointing. According to Belson, they came expecting a multiple projector planetarium show, but saw instead a film screening.

The Vortex Concerts were crucial to Belson’s transition to a new style of filmmaking — he stopped using traditional animation techniques and began working with pure real-time light sources.

Belson has continued to create a resplendent body of work. Other films with spectacular cosmic imagery include Light (1973); Cycles (1975), made with Stephen Beck; and Music of the Spheres (1977), all screening this week. His film Epilogue (2005) was funded by the NASA Art Program and commissioned by The Hirshhorn Museum. Belson’s films today are often installed in major museum exhibitions, and Center for Visual Music has presented special retrospectives of his work in the U.S., Germany, Netherlands, and Australia.

© Cindy Keefer, all rights reserved.

(SFMOMA  10.12.10)

for more on Jordan Belson visit the Center for Visual Music Belson Research page

Cindy Keefer curates, preserves, and writes on experimental film, and is working on a book about the Vortex Concerts…  she produced the recent Belson and Fischinger DVDs, Belson’s last film Epilogue and is currently the director of Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles…

images (from top): Allures (1961), 16mm film by Jordan Belson. © Jordan Belson, courtesy Center for Visual Music.  Chakra (1972), 16mm film by Jordan Belson. © Jordan Belson, courtesy Center for Visual Music.  Epilogue (2005), videofilm by Jordan Belson. © Jordan Belson, courtesy Center for Visual Music.  Seance (1959), 16mm film by Jordan Belson. © Jordan Belson, courtesy Center for Visual Music…

for more ART IN CINEMA see part 1part 2part 3 and part 4


19 monumental sculptures created for the ’68 XIX Olympics in Mexico City


One of the cultural artistic realizations of the Mexico City Olympic Games of 1968 was the planning and execution of nineteen abstract, monumental, concrete sculptures on the Southern part of the “Anillo Periferico”, the superhighway leading around the capital of the country. It was an example of team work on a large project of an artistic nature made possible especially by two distinguished personalities, architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, who was the President of the organizing committee of Mexico’s Olymic Games, and Mathias Goeritz, a German sculptor who was the creator and director of the project.

At that time architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez had already received both national and international acclaim for having designed the acclaimed National Museum of Anthropology, the Aztec Stadium, and other outstanding buildings as well as hun- dreds of public schools built by local labor and materials. He later became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and, together with his Swiss col- league, Jean Pierre Cahen, designed both the administrative building of the IOC and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Mathias Goeritz was a noted sculptor, born in the free city port of Danzig, who had to flee from the Nazis because he was partly of Jewish origin. He settled in Mexico after the Second World War. In 1957 Goeritz had designed a group of concrete towers called the “Torres de Satelite” in the suburb “Ciudad Satelite” near Mexico City. These tower-sculptures were conceived with a direct relationship to a super-highway. Today they are situated in a densely populated area of the huge megalopolis.

In 1966 Mathias Goeritz proposed to Pedro Ramirez Vazquez that the organizing committee of the Games of the XIX Olympiad convene an international meeting of sculptors in Mexico as one of the cultural events of the Olympic Games. Numerous meetings devoted exclusively to aesthetic questions had already been held in the past in different parts of the world, but the idea was that this one should give the artists a specific task or theme. The meeting was supposed to gather together sculptors from every continent, from all ethnic groups and from all the main political trends of the world at that time. It thus had an idealistic and humanistic nature that transcended aesthetics and was in conformity with the fundamental principles of the Olympic

The Route of Friendship Movement was to be an international event with the unifying theme of brotherhood of all the peoples of the world. The particular problem the sculptors were to solve limited their artistic liberty by the following restrictions: the sculptures had to be made of concrete, be monumental, and abstract. Furthermore, the sculptors were supposed to have in mind solutions related to being located adjacent to a superhighway. The President of the organizing committee gave his full support.

The nineteen monumental sculptures were executed along the “Anillo Periferice” on both sides of the Olympic Village. At that time this expressway which was in the process of construction passed through zones outside the city as well as urbanized areas. It also went through parks and sparsely inhabited zones which later became part of the city.

(OLYMPIKA  Vol. VII 1998)

the participating artists: Angela Gurría – Mexico, Willi Gutmann – Switzerland, Milos Chlupác – Czechoslovakia, Koshi Takahashi – Japan, Pierre Székely – France/Hungary, Gonzalo Fonseca – Uruguay, Constantino Nivola – Italy/United States, Jacques Moeschal – Belgium, Todd Williams – United States, Grzegorz Kowalski – Poland, Jose Maria Subirachs – Spain, Clement Meadmore – Australia, Herbert Bayer – United States/Austria, Joop J. Beljon – The Netherlands, Itzhak Danziger – Israel, Olivier Séguin – France, Mohamed Melehi – Morocco, Helen Escobedo – Mexico, Jorge Dubón – Mexico…


dispatch: the end of the world as we know it


Back in August I predicted that newspapers in their current form will be irrelevant in Australia in 2022. That received significant international attention including from The AustralianThe GuardianEditor & Publisher (which called me the ‘Wizard of Aussie’) and many others.

Part of the point I wanted to make was that this date is different for every country. As such I have created a Newspaper Extinction Timeline that maps out the wide diversity in how quickly we can expect newspapers to remain significant around the world. First out is USA in 2017, followed by UK and Iceland in 2019 and Canada and Norway in 2020. In many countries newspapers will survive the year 2040.

The Australian has again covered this in a story title Deadline for newspapers as digital publications rise. There may be some more coverage in coming days.

(ROSS DAWSON BLOG  10.31.10)


according to billionaire entrepreneur Robert Sillerman — who four years ago spent 100 million bucks on the lion’s share of Elvis Presley’s estate — the BBC reported in 2002 that IRS information indicates 84,000 people in the U.S. claim “Elvis impersonating” as their job…

in other 84k news…

The Republic of Seychelles is an island country 932 miles east of mainland Africa with a population of 84,000, the smallest of any African state…  (WIKIPEDIA)

The National Statistics Office will engage the services of 84,000 additional personnel to help in the conduct of the 2010 Census… (BUSINESS MIRROR 5.16.10)

The Wyoming Dept. of Environmental Quality says cleanup continues after a pipeline break caused 84,000 gallons of crude oil to spill in the Bridger Valley…  (BILLINGS GAZETTE 4.25.10)

The White House says President Obama’s stimulus bill was responsible for 84,000 jobs during the first quarter of 2010…  (STAR NEWS 4.16.10)

On July 25, Singapore will host its largest synchronized mass-walking event, which will involve 84,000 residents…  (ASIAONE NEWS 4.5.10)

The Australian Crime Commission has released figures showing police arrested 84,000 people in relation to illegal drugs last year…  (ABC NEWS 1.8.10)

Companies in the U.S. cut 84,000 jobs in December, according to data compiled in the ADP National Employment Report…  (BLOOMBERG 1.6.10)

Last week 84,000 new cases of the swine flu virus were reported, as experts predicted another spike as the weather gets colder…  (THE TIMES 11.10.09)

Britain’s government confirmed that it lost a digital memory device containing information on 84,000 prisoners, every inmate in England…  (MSNBC 8.22.08)

the “84,000 Buddhas” at the Ichibata-Yakushi temple in Japan, represent the 84,000 ideas which pollute the mind and body…


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