The Pritzker Architecture Prize
The Pritzker Architecture Prize (“The Prize”) is an international award to honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of talent, vision and commitment, and has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.
In its 42 years of existence, the Pritzker Architecture Prize has become the most important award in the architectural profession. It is commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize of Architecture.
The Prize takes its name from the Pritzker family, whose international business interests are headquartered in Chicago. Their name is synonymous with Hyatt Hotels located throughout the world. The Pritzkers have long been known for their support of educational, scientific, medical, and cultural activities. Jay and Cindy Pritzker founded the Prize in 1979. They believed that a meaningful prize would encourage and stimulate not only a greater public awareness of the importance of architecture but also inspire greater creativity within the architectural profession. The Hyatt Foundation’s sole function is to sponsor the Pritzker Architecture Prize. It is governed by a self-perpetuating Board consisting of Cindy Pritzker, Margot Pritzker, Tom Pritzker and Allen Turner. Tom Pritzker is the Chairman and President of the Hyatt Foundation. By background he explains:
“At its inception, the Prize was meant to cover an important field that was not covered by the Nobel Prize. As native Chicagoans, it’s not surprising that our family was keenly aware of architecture, living in the birthplace of the skyscraper. Over time, we defined our purpose as heightening people’s awareness of the importance of architecture to a healthy society. Our currency was and continues to be the stature of the Prize. We have jealously guarded that stature by the quality of our Jury, the quality of our ceremony and the collaboration between ourselves, the Chairperson, the Executive Director and Director of Communications.”
At the core of the Pritzker Prize is its Jury. Tom describes the Jury as the “secret sauce” of the stature of the Prize. The Jury is independent and solely responsible for the annual selection of the Laureate. The composition of the Jury is diverse, international and knowledgeable about architecture. The size ranges from six to nine members who are entrusted with selecting a Laureate each year. Jury members are recognized professionals in their respective fields. Jury terms are staggered in order to achieve consistency of culture and a balance between past and new members. The current Chairman of the Jury is Justice Stephen Breyer. His predecessors were Glenn Murcutt, Lord Peter Palumbo, Lord Jacob Rothschild and J. Carter Brown. No members of the Pritzker family or outside observers are present during Jury deliberations. The Prize consists of $100,000 and a bronze medallion.
While the Jury is responsible for the selection of the Laureate, Tom and Margot Pritzker are responsible for the other aspects of the Prize. This includes communications and the annual ceremony which is held at architecturally significant sites throughout the world and is attended by international guests from the worlds of architecture, culture, business and politics. These have included Chateau de Versailles, the Akasaka State Guest House, the White House, the Great Hall of the People and Todaiji Temple. The ceremony consists of welcoming remarks usually from a dignitary of the host country; these have included the President of the United States, the Premier of China, the Emperor of Japan and the King of Spain, among others. These comments are followed by comments from the Jury chairperson, the presentation of the prize by Tom Pritzker, and an acceptance speech from the Laureate. At the time of the ceremony there is frequently a public lecture presented by the Laureate at a leading institution located within the host country in the days immediately following the award ceremony.
The Executive Director will work closely with the Chairperson of the Jury as well as with Tom and Margot Pritzker and the Director of Communications. The culture of this group is to work in a collaborative manner in order to further the purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.
For a full list of Laureates, Jury members, ceremony locations and other information on the Pritzker Architecture Prize click here.
The primary role of the Executive Director is to support the Jury in the selection of the Laureate. The Executive Director must remain neutral at all times and will not express opinions or enter into Jury decisions but will support the Chairman in conducting the decision-making process.
To support the Prize cycle, the Executive Director is responsible for the following areas: Jury, Jury Membership, Jury Fly Around, Nomination Procedures, Laureates, Ceremony & Lecture and General Responsibilities.
It is important to note that this position is designed to be a supplemental role for someone with a robust professional portfolio of activities. It is not a full-time role. A detailed calendar and specific responsibilities of the Executive Director will be shared with candidates as conversations progress.
A general calendar of the peak times of commitment on an annual basis includes:
Peak Times of Commitment
Early Fall 2020
|Gathers nominations via email; plans and executes Jury Fly Around
(ED organizes, facilitates and attends; usually one week)
|January – March 2020
||Deliberations and announcement of new Laureate
(ED leads in partnership with Communications Director)
||Ceremony and Jury meeting
(ED attends and participates)
A thoughtful succession process has been crafted to enable the next Executive Director to observe an entire cycle of the Prize calendar prior to assuming his or her official duties. In 2020-2021, the Outgoing Executive Director will lead, and the Incoming Executive Director will attend, observe and receive the annual compensation.
The successful Executive Director ideally will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills and characteristics:
Credibility in the Field
Candidates should bring significant experience in the field of architecture, including the development and implementation of initiatives in the field. A combination of leadership within the architecture field and academia is ideal. The ability to immediately activate and leverage a robust network of colleagues and peers within the field is key. The Executive Director will enjoy staying informed and actively engaged in the field of architecture at all times.
A True Partner
The ideal candidate will be motivated by the opportunity to serve as a partner to the Jurors and the Pritzker family throughout the annual Prize cycle. A natural steward, s/he will exhibit a high level of emotional intelligence, graciousness, collegiality as well as a personal style that embodies humility and patience with quiet confidence and strength of character.
It is imperative that this leader treats others with respect and has a strong capacity to listen and build trust-based relationships. S/he will stay true to the values of the Prize, inspiring and motivating others to embody these values. S/he will have a deep sense of appreciation for being entrusted with a role that can have fundamental impact on the world. The Executive Director embodies the selfless philosophy that assisting and enabling the Jurors to perform their roles at the highest possible level without promoting his or her personal agenda is a critical component of this role.
An Ambassador for The Prize
The Executive Director possesses the gravitas and knowledge of the architecture field to serve as a key public spokesperson to a diverse international set of constituents. The Executive Director must have the ability to engage multiple, interdisciplinary voices to share expertise and make effective connections among practitioners to identify, evaluate, and amplify the Prize’s vision and the impact its recipients make on the world. This leader will naturally inspire trust, confidence and shared purpose with a range of external and internal stakeholders. S/he will be comfortable building on existing and establishing new networks to establish strategic partnerships to ensure the continued success and sustainability of the Prize.
S/he will bring outstanding written and oral communication and presentation skills to effectively articulate and convey the Prize’s mission and its impact to a range of key external partners to inspire action and participation.
A Leader Excelling in Flawless Execution
The Executive Director understands the importance of architecting and facilitating a flawless process to ensuring the Prize cycle concludes successfully. A devotion to ensuring the mechanics of the Prize operate seamlessly from cycle to cycle is critical, both through personal oversight of certain details and close partnership with internal and external stakeholders on others.
While the Executive Director will bring a level of professional stature, s/he must also be able to maintain complete neutrality and diplomatically manage outside interests that attempt to influence the Prize in any way.
A Passion for the Mission
Compelling candidates will bring a deep understanding of the significance of the Prize and a recognition of the opportunity to lead a highly influential and impactful organization that lives under a global spotlight.
In addition to the skills and characteristics outlined above, strong candidates will be bold thinkers who will be driven by curiosity, creativity, and a desire to amplify the mission of the Architecture Prize.
It is imperative that s/he treats others with respect and always stays true to the values of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The ideal candidate is an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values.
Koya Leadership Partners, the retained executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement.
To make recommendations or to express your interest in this role, please email Alison Ranney, Anne McCarthy and Alison Salisbury directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. All nominations, inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.