Foster Praemium Imperiale
British architect Norman Foster is one of the five 2002 recipients of the prestigious Praemium Imperiale, an annual arts award bestowed by the Japan Art Association.
In announcing the award, the jury wrote of Foster: "His architecture is universally admired for its conceptual and structural brilliance and 'high-tech' beauty — a special union of technology and aesthetics that has been polished and perfected over a lifetime. His works combine advanced technology, an ingenious geometry, attention to detail, and sensitivity to ecological considerations. Although uncompromisingly modern in character, [his recent commissions] demonstrate a great respect for the past.
The jury cited three projects in particular — the Sackler Galleries at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Great Court of the British Museum, both in London, and the Reichstag, the updated German Parliament in Berlin.
The Sackler Galleries (completed 1991) demonstrate Foster's skill at contemporary intervention to enhance a historic context without overwhelming it. The new work is clearly modern but sits comfortably next to the restored 18th century structures which had become inaccessible over time. In rebuilding the deteriorated 19th century Reichstag (completed 1999), Foster was guided by four principles: the Bundestag's significance as a democratic forum, a commitment to public accessibility, a sensitivity to history, and a rigorous environmental agenda. On the roof is a glass dome with helical ramps that lead to an observation platform, allowing the people to ascend above the heads of their political representatives.
The Praemium Imperiale was established in 1989 to contribute to world peace and cultural progress and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Japan Art Association. Since then it has honored one architect each year; the list includes Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Fumihiko Maki, Charles Correa, and James Stirling. A Praemium Imperiale awards ceremony will be held in Tokyo on October 23, 2002. The other four 2002 recipients are Polish painter Sigmar Polke, Italian sculptor Giuliano Vangi, German singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. Every year, artists in all five disciplines are recognized for their achievements, for the impact they have had internationally on the arts, and for their role in enriching the global community.