Saturday, March 3, 2012

Amateur architecture.

Geo. Thomas, Jr. -
perhaps the greatest amateur
golf architect of them all.
The Pritzker Architecture Prize is the most prestigious award in building architecture. It's presented annually to "honor 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".

This year's Pritzker Laureate is Chinese architect, Wang Shu. Reading about Shu yesterday, I fell in love with the name of his Hangzhou-based studio. Establised in 1997 - with his wife and fellow architect, Lu Wenyu - Shu boldly calls his studio "Amateur Architecture". A curious name for the office of a man who's now recognized as being at the very top of his profession? Perhaps not.

An amateur is "a person who engages in a study, sport or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.” Shu often explains in lectures and interviews that “to me architecture is spontaneous for the simple reason that architecture is a matter of everyday life. When I say that I build a ‘house’ instead of a ‘building’, I am thinking of something that is closer to life, everyday life. When I named my studio ‘Amateur Architecture’, it was to emphasize the spontaneous and experimental aspects of my work, as opposed to being ‘official and monumental’."

I'm continually fascinated by the many parallels between building architecture and golf architecture; and, the name of Shu's studio - which is so smart in the way it speaks strongly of his love for his work, and methods - made me think of some of the great "amateur" golf architects of the past. Most notable are George Crump, Hugh Wilson, Henry and Bill Fownes, and George Thomas, Jr. - men who also engaged in a study, sport and activity (golf course architecture) for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons. Despite the name of his studio, Shu actually gets paid. Crump, Wilson, the Fownes', and Thomas never made a dime for creating Pine Valley, Merion, Oakmont, and Riviera, respectively. An interesting tidbit in golf history, for sure.

Perhaps I should change MGCD to "Amateur Golf Architecture Studio"? Nah, Shu beat me to it.

You can read more about Wang Shu and the Pritzker Award, here.

1 comment:

  1. "An interesting tidbit in golf history, for sure."

    Indeed, particularly if what I read recently is true, that Alastair MacKenzie died with his invoice for Augusta National still outstanding.