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Swiss duo receive "Nobel" prize for architecture

Prize winners Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog Keystone Archive

The Basel-based architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have received architecture's most prestigious accolade, the Pritzker Prize. They are the first Swiss citizens to win the award since it was set up in 1979.

This content was published on May 8, 2001 - 07:28

Herzog and de Meuron were given their $100,000 (SFr173,000) prize - regarded as the Nobel prize for architecture - at a ceremony on Monday in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The prize is awarded annually by the Los Angeles-based Hyatt Foundation in recognition of architectural work combining "talent, vision and commitment".

The two architects won international fame with their conversion of a former London power plant into the towering museum of modern art, the Tate Modern. The new gallery opened last year to considerable critical acclaim.

"What we found to be most compelling or fascinating about their work is the capacity that it has to astonish," Pritzker jury member Carlos Jimenez said. "They are able to transform rather ordinary shapes, conditions or materials into something that becomes truly extraordinary."

Both men were born in Basel in 1950 and attended the same schools. They set up their practice, Herzog and de Meuron, in 1978.

Since then they have collaborated on a wide range of projects including the Institute for Clinical Pharmacy in Basel and the Dominus winery in California's Napa Valley. Their most recent project was a new all-seater football stadium which opened in Basel earlier this year.

De Meuron attributes their success as a team to the fact that he and his partner complement each other well. "Jacques' strengths are my weaknesses, and his weaknesses are my strengths," he said.

The two architects have been working on several high-profile US projects - the expansion of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the new de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, and the Astor Hotel in Manhattan, a joint project with last year's Pritzker Prize winner, Rem Koolhas.

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, J.Carter Brown, commented: "One is hard put to think of any architects in history who have addressed architecture with greater imagination and virtuosity."

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