Vision and Humanity

Pritzker Architecture Prize Winner Kevin Roche

Kevin Roche (left) holding the present lot, the Pritzker Architecture Prize with 1979 laureate, Philip Johnson (right)

Widely considered architecture’s Nobel, the Pritzker Architecture Prize was established "to honor a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture." It is fitting that for the first nine years of its inception, laureates received a limited edition sculpture by the most significant sculptor of the twentieth century, Henry Moore. Based on a larger work entitled Two Piece Reclining Figure: Cut, the Pritzker Award embodies the same qualities that make powerful architecture—an acute understanding of negative space, masterful handling of volumetric form and an understated, undeniable elegance.

Roche's Ford Foundation headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. Image: Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates LLC

In 1982, The Hyatt Foundation presented Irish architect Kevin Roche with the Architecture Prize, an acknowledgement of over twenty years of outstanding work in the field. Born in Dublin in 1922, Roche received his degree in architecture from the National University of Dublin in 1945. Shortly thereafter, he ventured to Chicago where he studied under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology eventually landing in the office of Eliel and Eero Saarinen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. From 1954-1961, Roche served as Eero Saarinen’s principal associate in design for projects including the St. Louis Arch, the TWA Terminal at JKF and CBS Headquarters in New York. In 1966, Roche and his partner John Dinkeloo formed Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates and would go on to design the Ford Foundation Headquarters, the Lehman Pavilion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, United Nations Plaza and UNICEF Headquarters in New York and the Cummins Engine Company Headquarters in Columbus, Indiana among many others.

"Is not the act of building an act of faith in the future, and of hope?"

For each project, Roche approached the design with an individuality and humanist element that was unlike any of his contemporaries. His style was one that could not be categorized, yet an underlying thread of innovation and nobility wove through each building. Admired and respected by colleagues and clients alike for his reverent approach to design, it is difficult to think of a more deserving recipient for the prize. During his acceptance speech at the 1982 ceremony, he mused “Is not the act of building an act of faith in the future, and of hope? Hope that the testimony of our civilization will be passed on to others, hope that what we are doing is not only sane and useful and beautiful, but a clear and true reflection of our own aspirations. And hope that it is an art, which will communicate with the future and touch those generations as we ourselves have been touched and moved by the past.”

Roche holding the present lot, Architecture Prize (Two Piece Reclining Figure: Cut) by Henry Moore