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Published: Monday, 3/29/2010

Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion architects capture prestigious prize


LOS ANGELES - The architects who designed the Toledo Museum of Art's see-through Glass Pavilion won the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the prize's jury announced Sunday.

Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa were praised for using everyday materials to create ethereal structures that shelter flowing, dreamlike spaces.

Ms. Sejima, 54, and Mr. Nishizawa, 44, will receive a $100,000 grant and a pair of bronze medallions for winning the top honor in the field.

"We want to make architecture that people like to use," said Ms. Sejima, who likened the pair's structures to public plazas, where visitors can roam freely in groups or find comfortable spots to spend time on their own. "The jury somehow appreciated our way of making architecture."

The museum's glass pavilion, which opened in 2006, is still drawing architects from around the world to Toledo, said Carol Bintz, who was the museum's chief operating officer when the glass pavilion was under construction.

Architects looking at the structure, which is directly across Monroe Street from the main museum, typically comment on the inside-outside feel of the glass pavilion that gives visitors the feeling that they're outside when they're in the building, Ms. Bintz said.

Experts also note the lack of obvious structural supports in the pavilion, which appears to the casual observer to be made largely from glass.

"It was a pretty marvelous feat of architecture to make it look like it's floating in the park," said Ms. Bintz, who is now the museum's development officer for corporate and planned giving.

Such design work, Ms. Bintz said, helped win over some of the staunch opponents who feared that the glass pavilion would not be an appropriate addition to the historic Old West End.

In addition to Toledo's glass pavilion, projects mentioned by the Pritzker jury included the translucent-skinned Christian Dior Building in Tokyo's upscale Omotesando shopping district, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's newly opened Rolex Learning Center, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened in 2007 on New York City's lower east side.

The formal Pritzker ceremony is to be held in May on Ellis Island.

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