The 12th international architecture exhibition at the Venice Biennale doesn’t open until late August, but organizers announced today that Rem Koolhaas will receive this year’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, the Biennale’s top prize. A special posthumous prize will also be given to the Japanese architect Kazuo Shinohara, who died in 2006.
The Golden Lion is bestowed on the profession’s leading figures. Recent winners have included Frank Gehry, Richard Rogers, Peter Eisenman, and Toyo Ito. Koolhaas, along with Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp, founded the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in 1975. At age 65, he is known both as a groundbreaking designer as well as a highly influential thinker on architecture, urbanism, and contemporary society.
“Rem Koolhaas has expanded the possibilities of architecture. He has focused on the exchanges between people in space. He creates buildings that bring people together and in this way forms ambitious goals for architecture. His influence on the world has come well beyond architecture. People from very diverse fields feel a great freedom from his work,“ said Paolo Baratta, chairman of the board of the Venice Biennale, in a statement.
Shinohara, founder of the so-called Shinohara School, had a lasting impact on Japanese architecture, mentoring figures such as Toyo Ito and Itsuko Hasegawa. He sought to reconcile Japanese aesthetics with modernism, and helped to turn Japan into one of the world most important centers for contemporary design. Centennial Hall at the Tokyo Institute of Technology is among his most widely praised works.
While the Golden Lion recognizes the lasting impact of leading architects, the focus of the Biennale is on the present. Directed this year by SANAA’s Kazuyo Sejima, the title of the 12th Biennale is “People Meet in Architecture.”
“The twenty-first century has just started. In such a rapid-changing context, can architecture clarify new values and a new lifestyle for the present? Hopefully, this show will be a chance to experience the manifold possibilities of architecture, as well as to account for its plurality of approaches, each one of them being a different way of living,” Sejima said in a statement. It runs from August 29 through November 21.