In truth, he and first lady Michelle Obama made but a brief appearance at the black-tie gala, leaving Mayor Rahm Emanuel, top White House aides Valerie Jarrett, Bill Daley, Austan Goolsbee and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to fill them in on the menu offerings (caviar, cheese scones and steak), the music (Mozart and Haydn from a string quartet) and the requisite representative of Hollywood (Richard Gere).
“There was a time when I thought I wanted to be an architect, where I expected to be more creative than I turned out, so I had to go into politics instead,” President Obama told the crowd.
He paid homage to both the Pritzker family, whose foundation awards the international prize, and to some of the architectural giants whose work stands tall in Chicago: Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry (the latter a dinner guest).
Obama pointed out that his 2008 campaign headquarters in Chicago was in a building based on a Mies van der Rohe design, adding: “And for two years, we crammed it full of hundreds of people working around the clock and surviving on nothing but pizza. I’m not sure if that’s what Mies had in mind, but it worked out pretty well for us.”
The first lady, at his side on stage as he spoke, wore a sleeveless, backless gown by designer Reed Krakoff.
The Pritzker Prize, awarded internationally to a living architect, is sometimes called the Nobel Prize of the architecture world. The prize was founded in 1979 by two Chicagoans, the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, who made the rounds at the soiree, through their Hyatt Foundation.
Their niece, businesswoman and philanthropist Penny Pritzker, was national finance chair for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign and co-chair of his inaugural committee. She is an informal advisor to the 2012 re-election bid, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
Souto de Moura, 58, best known for the Braga Municipal Stadium in Portugal, has designed homes, a cinema, shopping centers, hotels, apartments, offices, art galleries, museums, schools, sports facilities and subways, according to The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the prize. Judges lauded him for three decades of work and for buildings that convey “power and modesty, bravado and subtlety, bold public authority and a sense of intimacy — at the same time.”
The soiree was in the capital’s Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.
Quite possibly only one single guest seemed more pleased than Souto de Moura.
That would be Rahm da Mayor.
Just sworn in last month, Emanuel, who was on hand with his wife Amy Rule, told a Tribune reporter that his is “a great job. It is better than I imagined–it is 10 times better than I imagined.”