When it comes to the tensile industry, few figures have shaped the way everything works like Frei Otto. Born on May 31 in 1925, for almost 90 years he has been at the forefront of design of lightweight, practical and beautiful shade structures that have adorned some of the biggest events in the world. But at the same time, he has stated that his main goal in life was simply to create architecture that could help the poor – especially after natural disasters and catastrophes.
Frei Otto passed away on March 9, but his legacy will not be forgotten. In fact, the day after his passing, his legacy was enshrined with a posthumous Pritzker Architecture Prize.
The Pritzker is an award to "honour a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture," and Otto is undoubtedly deserving of this prestigious honour.
Here at Skyspan™, we would like to take a moment to recognise some of the incredible work that Mr Otto has gifted to the world.
Munich Olympics, 1972
In stark contrast to the heavy stone architecture initially preferred by his peers in Germany, Frei Otto opted for widespread, lightweight shade structures to border and cover the stadiums at the Munich Olympics.
The 2015 Pritzker Jury citation stated that many thought his vision for such expansive, light and strong roofing could not be possible. But with a team of professionals, Otto created a spiderweb-like system of tensile structures that are still breathtaking today.
German Pavilion, Expo 67
This prefabricated structure was a masterclass in how to make large-scale cable net structure, and was praised for its originality and ease of construction. The gigantic architectural umbrella-like structures spanned hundreds of metres, and could not be ignored. Here was a man able to create functional, beautiful and unfathomably large structures, all for the greater good of the many.
The Pritzker Jury has lauded Frei Otto for his commitment to efficient and ecological values, suggesting he practised the idea of sustainable architecture before it was even a recognised term. His commitment to using his limitless architectural talents to help people continued until he passed away, as evidenced in his acceptance of the award, shortly before his death:
"I will use whatever time is left to me to keep doing what I have been doing, which is to help humanity. You have here a happy man."