The Pritzker Architecture Prize

(applause) The President:
Thank you very much. Thank you. Please — please,
everybody, have a seat. Well, thank you, Tom,
for that introduction. Thank you to the entire Pritzker
family for your friendship and incredible generosity
towards so many causes. I want to welcome as well the
diplomatic corps that is here, as well as Secretary
Arne Duncan. On behalf of
Michelle and myself, I want to begin by
congratulating tonight’s winner, Eduardo Souto de Moura. And I also want to recognize
the members of the prize jury, who I think have a very
difficult task in choosing from so many outstanding
architects all around the world. Now, as Tom mentioned, my
interest in architecture goes way back. There was a time when I thought
I could be an architect, where I expected to be more
creative than I turned out, so I had to go into
politics instead. (laughter) And as the Pritzkers and so
many others here can attest, if you love architecture there
are few better places to live than in my hometown of Chicago. (applause) It is the birthplace of the
skyscraper — a city filled with buildings and public spaces
designed by architects like Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd
Wright and Frank Gehry, who is here tonight. In fact, the headquarters of our
last campaign was in a building based on a design by
Mies van der Rohe. And for two years, we crammed
it full of hundreds of people working around the clock and
surviving on nothing but pizza. (laughter) I’m not sure if that’s
what Mies had in mind, but it worked out
pretty well for us. And that’s what
architecture is all about. It’s about creating buildings
and spaces that inspire us, that help us do our jobs,
that bring us together, and that become, at their best,
works of art that we can move through and live in. And in the end, that’s
why architecture can be considered the most
democratic of art forms. That’s perhaps why
Thomas Jefferson, who helped enshrine the founding
principles of our nation, had such a passion for
architecture and design. He spent more than 50
years perfecting his home at Monticello. And he spent countless hours
sketching and revising his architectural drawings for the
University of Virginia — a place where he hoped generations
would study and become, as he described it, “the future
bulwark of the human mind in this hemisphere.” Like Jefferson, tonight’s
honoree has spent his career not only pushing the
boundaries of his art, but doing so in a way that
serves the public good. Eduardo Souto de Moura
has designed homes, shopping centers, art galleries,
schools and subway stations — all in a style that seems as
effortless as it is beautiful. He’s an expert at the use of
different materials and colors, and his simple shapes and clean
lines always fit seamlessly into their surroundings. Perhaps Eduardo’s most famous
work is the stadium he designed in Braga, Portugal. Never one to settle
for the easy answer, Eduardo wanted to build this
particular stadium on the side of a mountain. So he blasted out nearly a
million and a half cubic yards of granite from
the mountainside, then crushed it to make
the concrete necessary to build the stadium. He also took great care to
position the stadium in such a way that anyone who couldn’t
afford a ticket could watch the match from the
surrounding hillsides. Kind of like Portugal’s
version of Wrigley Field. (laughter) And that combination
of form and function, of artistry and accessibility,
is why today we honor Eduardo with what is known as the
“Nobel Prize of architecture.” As Frank Gehry, a former
winner of this prize, said, “Architecture should speak
of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.” I want to thank all the men and
women who create these timeless works of art — not
only to bring us joy, but to help make this
world a better place. And, Tom, thank you again
for your extraordinary patronage of architecture. It makes an enormous difference. Thank you very much. (applause)

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