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Last Sunday night, at the New World Center in Miami Beach, the Pritzker Architecture Prize was awarded to the late Frei Otto, only the second German and the 40th recipient to be recognized for his achievements. Though the distinction is not typically awarded posthumously, Otto’s passing on March 9 transformed the event into a celebration of Otto’s life and his remarkable body of work.
The event was hosted by Cindy Pritzker and Tom and Margot Pritzker and was an energetic, if not overwhelming, commemoration of a character and visionary whose contributions to light-weight structures and civil engineering often went unnoticed. Following lively opening remarks from Miami Mayor Philip Levine and Executive Director of the foundation Martha Thorne, dinner was served in the Performance Hall of the New World Symphony.
As master architect and designer behind the roof for Munich’s 1972 Olympic Stadium and the West German Pavillion at the 1967 Montreal Expo, Otto often insisted that “prize winning” was not his goal, but rather, “to help poor people.”
The Pritzker Architecture Prize was first awarded in 1979; recipients of the prize are given a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion. Christina Otto-Kanstinger, a distinguished architect in her own right, accepted the award on behalf of her father.