Zen and the art of architectural spaces

2013 Marcus Prize awarded to Sou Fujimoto

Fujimoto’s design for the Serpentine Pavilion in London was built last month. (Photo by Iwan Baan)

It’s hard to say what kind of built environment Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto will inspire when he teaches at the UWM School of Architecture & Urban Planning (SARUP) in the fall. But it’s possible the students may experiment with what Fujimoto is best known for: delicate structures that fit into the existing urban sphere.

Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto has won the fifth Marcus Prize, funded by the Marcus Corporation Foundation and administered by the UWM School of Architecture & Urban Planning. (Photo by David Vintiner)

Fujimoto has been awarded the fifth Marcus Prize for Architecture, a biennial award supported by the Marcus Corporation Foundation and administered by SARUP.

The $100,000 award – one of the most lucrative in the world – recognizes emerging global talents. In addition to a cash prize to the recipient, the award also supports a design studio at SARUP that will be collaboratively led by the award winner.

Fujimoto has won several international awards and, at 42, is the youngest architect invited to design a temporary summer pavilion where public events are held in London’s Kensington Gardens.

“The fact that he was just chosen to build the Serpentine Pavilion in London, which is usually only designed by the world’s top architects, is evidence of his growing reputation,” says Robert Greenstreet, dean of SARUP and a member of the Marcus Prize jury. “The work is modern, and explores the role of building within the city as well as its relationship with the natural world.”

During the spring 2014 academic semester, Sou Fujimoto will make scheduled visits to SARUP, leading a graduate studio in collaboration with SARUP Associate Dean Mo Zell, dealing with specific challenges in architecture that will have enduring benefits to Milwaukee’s urban fabric. He will also be invited to participate in public workshops and lectures.

Fujimoto’s work focuses on light, material and human experience, uniting simplicity with complexity, as his design for the Serpentine Pavilion illustrates.

The Wooden House in Kumamoto, Japan, was built in 2007. (Photo by Iwan Baan)

In what Fujimoto calls “flexible architecture,” his designs feature spaces within spaces that people can adapt to fit their individual needs.

In addition to Greenstreet and Zell, jury members included Brian Lee, design partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago; William Menking, founder and editor-in-chief of The Architect’s Newspaper and professor at Pratt Institute, New York; Donna V. Robertson, the John and Jeanne Rowe Chair at IIT College of Architecture, Chicago; and David Marcus, president, Marcus Investments, Milwaukee.

The consensus of the jury: “Sou Fujimoto’s work is expertly crafted. His work can’t be categorized. He is unique, one of a kind, and he will no doubt make a significant contribution to the school and the city of Milwaukee through his ability to inspire the collective imaginations of the community.”

“The Marcus Prize is a part of our ongoing commitment to support the growth and development of Milwaukee,” says Steve Marcus, Marcus Corporation chairman of the board and director of the Marcus Corporation Foundation.

The Marcus Corporation Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Marcus Corporation, a lodging and entertainment company headquartered in Milwaukee.