The Pritzker Prize for architecture is considered to be the highest honor an architect can receive. It is often referred to as the "Nobel Prize of architecture". In its official description, the prize "was established by The Hyatt Foundation in 1979 to honor annually 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."

The prize is named after Jay and Cindy Pritzker, a Chicago-based family that owns several international businesses, and who are known for their philanthropy. Jay died in 1999, and his presidency of the Hyatt Foundation passed to his son Thomas Pritzker. Thomas writes:

As native Chicagoans, it's not surprising that our family was keenly aware of architecture, living in the birthplace of the skyscraper, a city filled with buildings designed by architectural legends such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and many others... in 1978, when we were approached with the idea of honoring living architects, we were responsive. Mom and Dad believed that a meaningful prize would encourage and stimulate not only a greater public awareness of buildings, but also would inspire greater creativity within the architectural profession.

Laureates receive a $100,000 (USD) prize, a citation, and (since 1987) a bronze medallion. To date, the honorees are:

1979 Philip Johnson (U.S.)
1980 Luis Barragan (Mexico)
1981 James Stirling (Great Britain)
1982 Kevin Roche (U.S.)
1983 I. M. Pei (U.S.)
1984 Richard Meier (U.S.)
1985 Hans Hollein (Austria)
1986 Gottfried Boehm (Germany)
1987 Kenzo Tange (Japan)
1988 Gordon Bunshaft (U.S.) and Oscar Niemeyer (Brazil)
1989 Frank Gehry (U.S.)
1990 Aldo Rossi (Italy)
1991 Robert Venturi (U.S.)
1992 Alvaro Siza (Portugal)
1993 Fumihiko Maki (Japan)
1994 Christian de Portzamparc (France)
1995 Tadao Ando (Japan)
1996 Rafael Manao (Spain)
1997 Sverre Fehn (Norway)
1998 Renzo Piano (Italy)
1999 Sir Norman Foster (United Kingdom)
2000 Rem Koolhaas (Netherlands)
2001 Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron (Switzerland)
2002 Glenn Murcutt (Australia)
2003 Jørn Utzon (Denmark)

Source: Official website, www.pritzkerprize.com

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