Edition 1998

6th Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture 1998. Act of the Jury

In its second meeting in Weimar, Germany, taking place on March 7, 1999, in the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, the Jury of the 6th Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture decided to give the prize to the Art Museum of Bregenz, Austria, by Peter Zumthor. The decision resulted from a careful selection process and an intense debate.

In the first meeting in Barcelona on January 16-17, 1999, the 123 works that had been nominated by the twenty-two Experts and the National Associations of Architects were examined by the Jury. In two days of discussion, thirty-three buildings were selected as excellent and significant examples of current European architectural production.

Out of these, a number of prospective candidates for the prize were chosen to be visited. In the course of the visit to the Culture and Congress Centre in Luzern by Jean Nouvel, the Jury came to the conclusion that, the building being completed only in its first phase, the urban impact and complexity of the mixed functions of the whole project could not be judged in an appropriate way. However, the Jury acknowledged the exceptional quality of the architectural concept and recommended that the project be considered in the next edition of the prize.

The large number of finalists is a testimony to the generally high architectural standard that has characterised the European architectural production of the last two years. The Jury recognised with great satisfaction that remarkable architectural quality could be found in different programmes of diverse scales reflecting the variety and richness of contemporary European culture.

The debate that took place during the seven days of the visits and meetings came to a climax in the final Jury meeting. Three specific buildings were taken as representatives of three specific architectural positions.

The Liner Appenzell Museum by Annette Gigon and Mike Guyer is an example of how, with limited resources and in a small town, it is possible to produce high quality architecture. The Museum stands for the precise and intelligent fulfilment of the programme with an appropriate usage of a minimum of elements and resources, thus creating an exemplary building that establishes a high quality normality.

In the tradition of outstanding avant-garde, single-family houses, the Villa in Bordeaux by Rem Koolhaas challenges the conventional notions of everyday living in an exceptionally radical way, creating disquietingly fascinating spaces. A fundamental factor in the design of this work is the complicity between a particular client and a particular architect.

The Art Museum of Bregenz by Peter Zumthor conveys with a similar radicality the attitude of resistance to a world of easy consumption creating an introverted place of contemplation. Leaving all materials uncladded and unpainted has to be read as a commitment to architectural Wahrheit; and, of course, to the materials' intrinsic beauty.

The debates of the Jury reflected the discussions ongoing in the European architectural culture. The exchange of ideas clarified the different positions but did not create consensus. The final discussions were polarised between the buildings (and the theoretical assumptions) of Koolhaas and Zumthor. Although the Jury recognised the two masterful representations of the positions of these three buildings, it came to the decision of one prize in accordance with the Rules.

The building by Peter Zumthor not only represents in a very coherent way the attitude of its author but also shows his concern and capacity for a perfect materialisation of his ideas. His experimentation with materials and spatial relationships stretch the limits of the possibilities of construction materials and technology. In spite of the geometrical rigour and purist attitude that control the whole building there is also attention to its usage by the public and the curatorial requirements. The pure geometry and single material of the façade is not an aim in itself but also has an exceptional urban dimension.

All of these qualities make this building particularly appropriate for this 6th edition of the Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture.

Weimar, March 7, 1999