the architects that got away

Remember the first competition for a redesigned MCA in Sydney? We could have had an iconic SANAA building before they became famous. Now they’ve won the Pritzker Prize… What went wrong?

James Weirick wrote, in part: “…in 1997 a competitive process was launched to select an architect, based on briefing papers by Graham Jahn. Seven eminent architects were interviewed: Andrew Andersons (Sydney) in partnership with Atsushi Kitagawara (Japan); Peter Corrigan and Maggie Edmond (Melbourne); Mikko Heikkinen and Marku Komonen (Finland); Steven Holl (United States); Enric Miralles (Spain); Kazuyo Sejima (Japan); Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (United States). The selection committee consisted of John Reid, then chairman of the MCA board, director Leon Paroissien, chief curator Bernice Murphy, NSW Government Architect Chris Johnson, and filmmaker George Miller. The winner, announced in June 1997, was Sejima [half of SANAA]. George Miller captured the panel’s enthusiasm, declaring that Sejima combined “tremendous technical rigour… with the ability to enchant. Like all great art her work is clear, potent and ineffable. I have no idea how she does it, but the magic is unmistakable.” This was the last Sydney heard of the Sejima scheme. The abandonment of Sejima is the tragic prequel to the current competition. How it happened is not entirely clear, but funding problems and management changes were undoubtedly major factors…”

(I wish I could track an image of SANAA’s MCA for you…)

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