Architecture should serve real people

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Architecture should serve real people
Architect Otto Frei’s Olympic Stadium in Munich sits under a mesh-like canopy.
Architecture should serve real people
Architect Otto Frei’s Olympic Stadium in Munich sits under a mesh-like canopy.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize, undoubtedly the most prestigious architecture award in the world, is having its ceremony in Miami this week. This year, the Pritzker Prize jury awarded the honor to Frei Otto, a German architect known for his tensile and membrane structures, most notably those he designed for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

The prize described his work as “lightweight, open to nature and natural light, non-hierarchical, democratic, low-cost, energy-efficient, and sometimes designed to be temporary.”

While his name will be recognized by few outside the architecture community, it is easy to look at his body of work and see the role he played in shaping modern architecture. His works were grand and intimate, feather-light and impossibly strong, utilitarian and inspiring.

While Otto’s structures were exceptional in their own right, his greatest achievement was creating architecture for the masses. His most important works were enormously public and welcoming, created for the many rather than the few. It is extraordinarily fitting that the prize should be awarded to Otto in Miami, for our city desperately needs more people who think like him. []

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