The four conferences of this cycle wish to offer you a scene of the contemporary architecture through some of its protagonists: Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, and Sejima & Nishizawa. These architects of different age and attitudes, all of them laureated with the Pritzker Prize, lead studios that build all over the world. Together, they represent a choral picture of an artistic and technical discipline attempting to express the spirits of their time, and also, providing service to the daily life.
The British Norman Foster (1935) is the author of a a work of great technological refinement and visual elegance, which carefully reads the user needs to offer innovative alternatives: his skyscrapers or airports have transformed the way that these kind of buildings are done, and his influence has been also felt in some of his interventions in heritage that have rigorously respected history. In Spain his first works were the tower of Collserola in Barcelona and the subway of Bilbao; his last work in our country was a winery in Ribera del Duero.
The Dutch Rem Koolhaas (1944) has been the most influential theorist of architecture and urbanism of the last decades, reinforcing his ideas with the construction of provocative buildings that express well the abrasive character of his reflexion, which has been included in publications as popular as Delirious New York or S,M,L,XL; his office in Rotterdam has been the incubator of many of the most brilliant young architects of our time. In our peninsula he currently has in project of the Congress Center in Cordoba, and a few years ago he finalised the iconic House of Music in Porto.
The Swiss Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron (both from 1950) have built from their base in Basilea structures of extraordinary functional efficiency and aesthetic impact, ranging from museums like the Tate Gallery to stadiums like the Olympic of Beijing, increasing this way the artistic records of architecture, and opening novel paths in the renovation of existing buildings with projects bringing back to life industrial heritages. Their best work in Spain has been the CaixaForum located in the Paseo del Prado in Madrid, which used to be an obsolete electrical station and now holds exhibitions.
The Japanese Kazuyo Sejima (1956) and Ryue Nishizawa (1966) have built a group of buildings in Asia, America and Europe that take architecture to unbelievable limits of immateriality and lightness, by dissolving the space with structures, or making extremely thin enclosures of exquisite proportion. Although they succeeded in the call for building the IVAM in valencia with a project that would latter earn the Golden Lion in the Biennale of Venezia, these architects from Tokyo have not built in our country yet.