Alex_Smith-small.jpgThe Pritzker Prize for Architecture was recently announced. This may not sound that epic to the average person, but to an architecture nerd like myself, watching the Pritzker Prize ceremony is like watching the Oscars (without all the pomp and circumstance).

This year’s winner came out of left field for millions (read as a few hundred) who were betting on long time favorite American designer Steven Holl. But, in reality, looking at this year’s winner, SANNA, it’s almost astounding that nobody put money down on them.

The past three years have been huge for SANNA, a Japanese team of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, starting with a touch down on American soil with the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio and, what many see as a breakout piece for them, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City.

Their most recent work, which has placed them in the ranks of many of the best architects of our time, has come from Europe. In the past year alone SANNA was awarded the Serpentine Pavilion in London, and debuted their Rolex Learning Center in Switzerland. Both are examples of sinuous curves, and reflective surfaces raised up on thin posts where the visitor meanders through a field of posts and changing roof planes only to occasionally find themselves in a courtyard surrounded by floating curves.

This year’s selection of SANNA, along with last year’s choice of Peter Zumthor and 2008’s Jean Nouvel form a telling chronology of the field of architecture and how it fares with the economy. When Jean Nouvel was selected in early 2008 the recession was just at it’s beginning and we were still on the bubble of a world of architectural expense that has since fallen to the wayside. The striking forms of Jean Nouvel with their dramatic shapes and colors were an example of design that was large without seeming superfluous.

March of 2009, was a different story altogether. Still in the deep end of the recession, architects were looking toward examples of restraint and simplicity of both material and form. The elegant work of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor fit the bill perfectly. A man who very rarely designs outside of Switzerland and is often called “the architect’s architect,” Zumthor epitomizes the ideal of simple form that relies heavily on the landscape and on qualities of light, material and space.

Now, in April 2010, though the recession is technically over, people everywhere are still experiencing its effects. Even as the architecture business picks up, we are still looking to the idea of simple form and great use of materials. While lighter and slightly showier than Zumthor with their reflective and metallic materials, SANNA exhibits the restraint and elegance that has come to a global society still learning from its mistakes.

Bio: Alex Smith is an intern at Guernica. Read her last recommendation of The BLDGBLOG Book “here”:

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