The Wolf Prize – controvesy over its award to Eduardo Souto de Moura
Elizabeth Hopkirk, 12 April 2012
The $100,000 Israeli prize is handed out annually
Eduardo Souto de Moura has accepted the $100,000 Wolf Prize despite being urged to boycott it by a string of leading architects.
Will Alsop, Eva Jiricna, Ted Cullinan, Charles Jencks, Neave Brown, Kate Macintosh and Bob Giles signed a letter from the pressure group Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine which asked Souto de Moura, who won the Pritzker in 2011, to turn down the prize.
The letter said: “We were saddened to hear that you have been awarded the Israeli Wolf Prize, not because you are not deserving of such awards, but that it is being offered to you by the Israeli state, in a very cynical move that would give them the respectability that is not deserved.
“It is ironic that the award is for architecture, since the practice of architecture in Israel defies international norms and codes of ethics and demeans the humanity and high ideals of our profession.”
The Wolf Prize is awarded annually in a number of categories ranging from agriculture to chemistry. The arts prize, for which Souto de Moura was nominated, alternates between painting, music, architecture and sculpture.
Previous architect laureates include David Chipperfield, Jean Nouvel, Fumihiko Maki, Frank Gehry, Denys Lasdun and Souto de Moura’s father-in-law, Alvaro Siza.
In its citation, the jury said it had picked the Portuguese architect for his “exceptional skills as a designer” and for “showing how buildings can philosophically and experientially engage with the natural world”.
It added: “In a body of work of different scales and types, in Portugal and abroad, Eduardo Souto de Moura has created a better environment for people in a clear social frame work.
“Of particular note is the coexistence that his buildings establish between society and nature, most poignantly in the stadium at Braga.”
The first of two open letters urging Souto de Mouro to reject the prize, both written by British architect Abe Hayeem, chair of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, said the presentation would be made by people responsible for actions that have resulted in “illegal territorial expansion, mass killings and horrific urban destruction”.
It concluded: “To accept the Wolf Prize would be giving credibility and respectability to such a state. We urge you, in solidarity with the besieged Palestinians, to reject this prize, which will give you much greater prestige as a supporter of human rights.”
Souto de Moura’s office confirmed he would be accepting the prize.
Below are the texts of two letters calling on Eduardo Souto de Moura to reject the Wolf Prize for Architecture from Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (More on APJP)
Letter 1, before hearing that Souto de Moura had accepted the 2013 Israeli Wolf Prize for Architecture:
From: Abe Hayeem, RIBA, Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP)
17 February 2013
To Eduardo Souto de Moura, E-Porto, Portugal
Dear Mr. Souto de Moura
RE: The Wolf Prize
While we, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, applaud your award of the 2011 Pritzker Prize for your superb and enlightening architectural achievements, we were saddened to hear that you have been awarded the 2013 Israeli Wolf Prize for Architecture, not because you are not deserving of such awards, but that it is being offered to you by the Israeli state, in a very cynical move that would give them the respectability that is not deserved. It is ironic that the award is for architecture, since the practice of architecture in Israel defies international norms and codes of ethics and demeans the humanity and high ideals of our profession.
Architects in Israel play a key role in consolidating Israel’s barbaric and colonial Occupation of the West Bank, on stolen Palestinian land, and in serious breaches of international law and the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which constitute war crimes. The illegal building of settlements, like fortresses on hilltops, destroying the precious historic landscapes, and trees, and cruelly dispossessing Palestinians on a massive scale, have been internationally condemned by the EU, US, the UN, and human rights organizations. Portugal also joined in strong condemnation.
The UIA, too passed Resolution 13 which has condemned these projects as being against the UIA Accords and Codes of Conduct, as they involve ethnic cleansing and erasure of Palestinian presence on their historic homeland, including their culture, heritage, history and memory, and in breach of the 4th Geneva Convention.
Architects are complicit with Israel’s brutal military and political agenda in their work. Since 1948, where over 600 villages, many historic architectural gems, were destroyed, and 750,000 inhabitants expelled, as part of the government’s self-proclaimed ‘Judaisation’ programme, Israel’s frenzied expansion of illegal housing and settlements is still pursued vigorously with impunity today.
Its ethnic cleansing practices have accelerated in East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, across the occupied West Bank and in the Negev, Galilee, and in Israeli ‘mixed’ cities like Jaffa. Every project involves the violent removal of Palestinians and the Bedouin from their land and homes by extremist settlers and the Israeli army, the denial of equal supplies of water (80:20 ratio), and destruction of civil life. Hundreds of house demolitions and evictions continue within the strangulating matrix of control and checkpoints between towns and villages.
All this, with the illegal Separation Wall, segregated roads, exclusively Jewish settlements and special restrictive laws self-evidently constitutes apartheid. Nationalist Israeli architects as well as ‘mainstream’ architects, have remained silent and are all involved in architectural practice that ignores the illegality in which they build. Their practice partakes in a massive real-estate enterprise to house Jewish-only residents from Israel and abroad, where Israel wants the geography without the Palestinian demography.
Israel is anxious to appear as a modern, high tech and advanced Western style democracy, but despite its racist segregation, and virtual imprisonment of the Palestinian people in the OPTs, it is keen to offer prizes such as the Wolf Prize and other accolades to whitewash its dark practices that continue with impunity against international law and human rights .The awarding of prizes to artists, writers, scientists and those who excel in their field, are used to re-brand the Israeli state, as a cover to the crimes being committed in the Occupied Territories and the discrimination in land and housing within Israel. We urge you not to allow your name to be used to further the Israeli propaganda agenda.
The people who will be handing you the prize have been leaders of Israel who were responsible for actions that have resulted in illegal territorial expansion, mass killings and horrific urban destruction in wars against surrounding states such as in Syria, Lebanon and recently in two murderous assaults on Gaza, in acts of wanton killing and urbicide, using advanced weaponry.
To accept the Wolf Prize would be giving credibility and respectability to such a state. We urge you, in solidarity with the besieged Palestinians, to reject this prize, which will give you much greater prestige as a supporter of human rights. You would be hearing the call of Palestinian civil society to boycott such events and awards offered by Israel. This will send a clear signal to Israel as a rejection of its apartheid policies and crimes against the Palestinian people, and will perhaps bring home their need to change their inhuman and destructive course, until there is a true peace with justice for all in Israel/Palestine.
We look forward to hearing from you, and provide you with further information if needed.
With sincere wishes
Chair, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine.
Letter 2 with signatories, after hearing that he was accepting the prize, as he read that Dr. Ricardo Wolf, was a German Jew who lived in Cuba , and that the prize was awarded ‘irrespective of politics’ and that many famous architects who accepted the prize were friends of his –including Alvaro Siza, his father-in-law.
27 March 2013
Dear Mr. Souto de Moura
RE: The Wolf Prize
Following our letter of 7 February we write to you again to ask you to re-consider the consequences of your acceptance of the Israeli Wolf Prize for architecture. While it is your individual choice to accept this prize or not, we would respectfully like to point out that it will be made within a very controversial political set-up with far-reaching consequences for the ethics and standing of our profession.
The award of the 2010 Wolf Foundation prize for Architecture places you in most distinguished company with those who have received it, which is its intent, and which you well deserve. Despite the fact that Dr.Ricardo Wolf was born in Germany and was the Cuban Ambassador to Israel from 1961-73, Wolf became an Israeli citizen thereafter and the Wolf Foundation is now an official part of the Israeli state. Whereas the original money for the Foundation was private, the State Comptroller of Israel oversees the Foundation’s activities and the Israeli Minister of Education and Culture serves as chairman of the Foundation’s council. Wolf prizes are therefore awards from the state of Israel, and one cannot pretend they are detached from the state, or they are not ‘political’.
Moreover, the prizes are bestowed by the President of Israel in the national parliament, the Knesset. These are leaders of Israel who were responsible for colonial actions that have resulted in illegal territorial expansion, mass killings and horrific urban destruction in wars and war crimes against the Palestinians under Israeli occupation. This violence is pursued against the surrounding states such as Lebanon, and recently in two horrific and murderous assaults on Gaza, in acts of wanton killing and urbicide, using advanced weaponry. It is ironic that Israel is awarding a prize for the practice of architecture, which is being used in its own country as an instrument of war, apartheid, oppression, humiliation, expropriation and ethnic cleansing, all totally at odds with our humane profession, UIA Accords, and the condemnation by the UIA.
The statement that the prize is awarded “independently regardless of gender, sex or political attitudes” is disingenuous, since ironically, Israel’s racist institutional discrimination against the Palestinian people, both as its own citizens, and in the illegally occupied territories has been condemned repeatedly by the UN and human rights organizations. These awards are used as cover to project an image of a modern, democratic state, and to divert attention away from its ethnocratic apartheid policies towards the Palestinians under its control, which they have pursued with impunity for 65 years. We note that you too have spoken in the past against Israel’s ‘criminal’ policies against Palestinians, in a letter signed with the late Jose Samarago.
While many architects of great repute, some of them your friends and colleagues, have received the Wolf Prize over the years, it is possible they may have been unaware at the time of the extent of the breaches of the Geneva Conventions and disregard of international and humanitarian law in the Israeli practice of architecture. This includes building in the occupied territories, in the illegal settlements of the West Bank, and the extreme push for further Judaisation of East Jerusalem and within Israel itself, carried out with almost complete silence by its architectural fraternity. Peter Higgs, the Higgs Boson pioneer was awarded the Wolf Prize for Physics in 2004 but he refused to go to Jerusalem to receive the award, because he was opposed to Israel’s actions in the Middle East. Many other famous artists, musicians and writers are refusing awards, or performing in Israel.
With the EU now recommending sanctions on Israel for the longest occupation in modern times, http://apjp.org/eu-consuls-recommend-imposing/ and the urgent call from Palestinian civil society to boycott such events and awards offered by Israel, http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869 one cannot separate oneself from the reality of what accepting an ostensibly prestigious prize would entail. Rejecting this prize would indicate a much needed moral stand against the escalating war crimes and injustices pursued with complete impunity by the Israeli state while awarding this prize. It would be a powerful statement of support for justice, freedom and dignity of the oppressed and would be an achievement of greater honour, a courageous affirmation of the humanity of our profession.
We hope you will respond to this call.
With sincerest wishes and greatest regard.
Abe Hayeem, RIBA, Chair, Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP)
and the following signatories:
Charles Jencks, Architect, Historian, Writer and Critic, UK/USA.
Ted Cullinan, CBE, RA, Winner RIBA Royal Gold Medal 2008
Will Alsop, RA, OBE:, Winner Stirling Prize 2000, UK.
Eva Jiricna, Winner Jane Drew Prize
Neave Brown, Architect, Artist, UK
Suad Amiry, Chief Architect, RIWAQ, (Centre for Architectural Conservation), Author, Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine
Hans Haenlein, MBE, Dip.Arch RIBA, FRSA
Cezary Bednarski, MSc DipArch RIBA FRSA, UK
Kate Mackintosh, Architect, UK
Jake Brown, Architect, UK
Louis Hellman, Architect, Cartoonist, UK
Khaldun B’Shara, Architect, Co-Director RIWAQ, Ramallah
Ed Hall, Architect, Banner maker, Turner Prize associate, UK
Walter Hain, Architect, UK
Bob Giles, Architect, UK
Dr. Yara Sharif, PhD, Univ.of Westminster, Architect UK & Ramallah
Nasser Golzari, NGA, Architect, UK, Lecturer, Oxford Brookes Univ
Dick Urban Vestbro, Emeritus Professor, Stockholm, ARC-Peace
Luz Maria Sanchez, Architect,Spain,Co-Chair:ARC-Peace Int.
Paul Broches, FAIA, Partner, Mitchell/Giurgola Architects, LLP, New York
David Berridge, AADipl RIBA
Oscar Margenet Nadal. Architect, Majorca
Bijay Anand Misra, Architect, India
Stephan Hawranick Serra, Architect, Spain
Patricia Canelas, Architect, Portugal
Ahmad Barclay, Architect, Beirut, Lebanon
Gail Waldman, Architect, UK
Predrag Milosevic, Prof. of Arch, Belgrade, Serbia, Yugoslavia
Öystein Grönning. Architect, Norway
Ryoichi Shuto, Architect, Japan
Isabel Camacho, Architect, Spain
Martin O’Shea, RIBA, UK
Michael Goulden,Architect, Wales
Malcolm Hecks, Architect, France
John Murray, Architect, UK
Graeme Bristol, Architect, UK
Blaise Crouzier, Architect HES, Geneva
Farhat Muhawi, Architect Head of Planning (RIWAQ), Ramallah, Palestine
Fida Touma, Architect, Ramallah, Palestine
Jan Dobrowolski, Architect UK
Frank Agostino de Marco, Architect, UK
Franziska Amacher, Cambridge Mass., Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) USA
Farooq Rafiq, Planner UK
Kim Linden, Planner, Melbourne Australia
Federico Malusardi, Architect, Italy
Andrea Fitrianto, Architect, Italy
Terry Meade, Lecturer, Univ. of Brighton
Chris Teague, Dip,Arch Hons, Architect UK
Eric Wojchik, Planner, Stornoway
Klaus Faulhaber, Architect, UK
Jane Frere, Artist
Nick Wood, Architect, UK
Sara Wood, MA,UK
John Hodge, RIBA, Architect,UK
Feras Hammami, Architect, Stockholm
Naseer Arafat, Architect, Director of NGO “The Cultural Heritage Enrichment Centre”, Nablus, West Bank
Lina Suleiman, Planner, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Angelika Öyster, Architect, Athens, Greece
Ebba Högström, Architect, Associate Prof, Blekinge Inst. of Tech., Sweden
Amjad Kurdi, Architect, Al Habtoor Leighton Group, United Arab Emirates
Mohammad Hijjawi, Architect, An-Najah National University, Nablus, W.Bank
Susan Abu Farha, Architect, Palestine
Mahdi Abu Aisheh, Architect, Project manager in DiLeonardo Int., UAE
Karolina Isaksson, Planner, Associate Professor of Planning- and Decision Making, The Swedish National Road and Transport Research Inst., Sweden
Rita Santos, Planner, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Majd Shaqu, Ministry of Education, West bank, Palestine
Shatha Alawneh, Architect, Ministry of Public Works and Housing, West Bank, Palestine
Anna Wedin, Environmental Planner, Sweden
Ayham Al Shal’out, Architect, Millennium Energy Industries, Jordan
Mike Smeir, Architect, CATD Architects, Jerusalem, Palestine
Ohuda Nabulsi, Architect, Global Communities International, West Bank
Suzan Abu Farha, Architect, West Bank, Palestine
Zeinab N. Tag-Eldeen, Architect, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Luciane Borges, Architect, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
+ ARC-PEACE as an organization.
Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP) is an independent international pressure group of design professionals.
We are seeking international support for an ethical and just practice for our professions in Palestine and the Occupied Territories, and oppose the projects being built with continued impunity against international law. Our support includes prestigious names in the architectural and academic world.
Some short videos of Israeli injustice to Palestinians, all resulting in new settlement construction:
1) My Neighbourhood tells the story of Mohammed El Kurd, a Palestinian teenager growing up in the heart of East Jerusalem when Mohammed’s family is forced to give up a part of their home to Israeli settlers.
2) Jerusalem park threatens Palestinian homes
3) Uprooting Olive Trees to make way for settlers
4) An Israeli bulldozer destroys a children’s playground near Bethlehem
5) Israel’s Destruction of the Bedouin Village Al-Arakib
Al-Arakib is a village in the Negev desert that was born decades before the foundation of Israel. Its residents are Israeli citizens. Video by Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana.(since 2010 Al-Arakib has been demolished 35 times)