Frei Otto Awarded Architecture’s Highest Award One Day After He Dies

Architect Frei Otto has been posthumously awarded the 2015 Pritzker Prize in architecture, the field’s most prestigious award. The German architect and structural engineer passed away yesterday at the age of 89, two weeks before the prize (usually reserved for living architects) was due to be announced, the New York Times reports.

Otto was known for his lightweight structures, like his West German Pavilion at the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal and the roof of the 1972 Olympic arena in Munich, both large but lightweight, tent-like cable net structures.

Otto, who was inspired by the work of Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov, also won one of architecture’s other prestigious awards, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal, in 2004. He took cues from natural phenomena like the structure of bird skulls and soap bubbles.

“Throughout his life, Frei Otto has produced imaginative, fresh, unprecedented spaces and constructions,” the 2015 Pritzker Prize jury write in their citation. His influence, they argue, lies “not in forms to be copied, but through the paths that have been opened by his research and discoveries.” Otto served as the first director of the Institute for Lightweight Structures at the University of Stuttgart, and was a prolific author.

Last year’s laureate was Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who is known for his innovative post-disaster architecture made of temporary materials, and who worked with Otto on the Japanese Pavilion for Expo 2000.SF