The Pritzker Architecture Prize dinner last night in the National Building Museum, the Pension Building, was delicious from salmon canapes to Grand Marnier souffles. The vast atrium, which architect Phillip Johnson called "the finest room in America," was lighted to perfection. Candles sent shadows and mysterious glimmers up and down the magnificent columns.
The speeches by honoree James Stirling and first prize winner Phillip Johnson were erudite and witty. Johnson toasted the room, which is more than 159 feet high, as a great example of the art of wasted space. Johnson went on to say that civilizations in the end are remembered by their buildings and nothing else, and he predicted that Stirling, a British architect, will be one of the best-known architects of his era. Stirling, who is also a professor at Yale, said that today there's a revival of interest, especially by students, in the art of architecture, and he paid tribute to Pritzker as a patron of architecture.
Everything was fine until Jay A. Pritzker, founder of the award, stood up to present the prize, a Henry Moore statue, and admitted he'd left it at home on his bed in Chicago. He promised to send it over to London by plane to Stirling next week.