Frei Otto Praemium Imperiale
In late September 2006, the Japan Art Association announced the five recipients of the 18th annual multidisciplinary Praemium Imperiale prize. The architecture prize for lifetime achievement went to German architect and engineer Frei Otto, best known for his research and design of lightweight, high-performance tent structures.
Two of the best known examples of Otto's work are the West German Pavilion of the 1967 Montréal Exposition and the Olympic Games Tent in Munich, Germany (1972), which he designed with Gunter Behnisch.
Frei Otto's creations include tents with minimal surface areas, grid shells stabilized by inverting traction lines, pneumatic envelopes whose form is determined by pressure ratios, and buildings that can be adapted to the changing needs of their owners. An atypical practitioner, Otto usually acts as a catalyst for, and provides research support to, other architects.
As a recognized authority on tent structures, Otto has been highly influential in blending the fields of architecture and engineering. He has studied natural structures, such as soap bubbles, and applied those lessons in creating large-span cable net and membrane structures.
In announcing the Praemium Imperiale prize, the Japan Art Association wrote: "For him, this work on natural constructions is part of a rational form-finding process following natural laws, but it is also part of a larger vision directed at a peaceful and free society in harmony with itself and nature."
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