Glenn Murcutt wins 2021 Praemium Imperiale for architecture

Glenn Murcutt wins 2021 Praemium Imperiale for architecture

Australian architect Glenn Murcutt has been named the Praemium Imperiale architecture laureate, an honour awarded annually by the Japan Art Association.

Murcutt, who was described in the citation as an "architect ahead of his time", became the first Australian to win the Praemium Imperiale.

Awarded annually, the global arts prize recognises laureates in "fields of achievement not covered by the Nobel Prizes", with winners chosen in architecture, painting, music and sculpture this year all receiving five million yen (£100,000).

Last year's awards were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Australian Islamic Centre in Melbourne 
Glenn Murcutt has designed a series of homes in Australia including Marie Short House

Murcutt, who was also the first Australian to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2002 and the AIA Gold Medal in 2009, is one of the country's best-known architects.

"Glenn Murcutt is an architect ahead of his time – an architect who has spent his career creating modest, environmentally responsible buildings rooted in the climate and tradition of his native Australia," said the Praemium Imperiale citation.

"Echoing the Aboriginal phrase 'touch the land lightly', his architecture has a poetic beauty and lightness, in harmony with nature, while at the same time the rationality of modernist architecture and ecological wisdom shine through."

Australian Islamic Centre
The Australian Islamic Centre is among his recent projects

Born in London to Australian parents in 1936, Murcutt moved to Australia aged five.

He studied architecture at the Sydney Technical College and established his studio in 1969 before designing a series of houses across Australia, including a pavilion-like house in Wahroonga in 1962 and Marie Short House, which was built in 1974.

Simpson-Lee House by 2021 Praemium Imperiale laureate Glenn Murcutt
Simpson-Lee House is an early project by the architect

Murcutt often operates alone and without relying on computer software.

"He works primarily as a solo practitioner, allowing him to create 'uncompromising work'," said the citation.

"He also prefers to work without computers, drawing freehand, finding solutions to design issues instinctively," the statement continued.

"As he says, he is not a creator but a discoverer, adding: 'Every great building is already there but to be discovered. It is not created'."

Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre
He also designed the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre

Recent projects by Murcutt include the Australian Islamic Centre in Melbourne and the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre complex in West Cambewarra.

Murcutt also designed the sixth iteration of the MPavilion, a temporary structure with a slender, translucent roof.

Alongside Murcutt, American cellist Yo-Yo Ma won this year's Praemium Imperiale for music while Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado was awarded in painting and American artist James Turrell in sculpture.

The last Praemium Imperiale in architecture was won by American duo Tod Williams and Billie Tsien in 2019. Previous architecture laureates include Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid.

Photography is by Anthony Browell.