Glenn Murcott's architectural practice is a small, one-man operation. He's not associated with a single signature urban building. And his career has bloomed in the continental outpost of Australia.
Career detriments? Not to the distinguished jury that awarded Murcott the 2002 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the field's most prestigious award, for designing dwellings that emphasize sustainability, simplicity and sense of place.
Murcott traveled to Buffalo on Monday from Portland, Ore., where he was a keynote speaker at the Greenbuild International Conference and drew a rousing standing ovation from 4,200 attendees. He is this year's 2004 Will and Nan Clarkson Visiting Chair in Architecture at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.
Murcott will present a free public lecture at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday titled "Architecture: Working With Place, Technology and Culture" in 147 Diefendorf Hall on UB's South Campus. He also will take part in several campus seminars during his four-day stay, focusing on the relationship between architecture and climate.
"We are delighted to have a Pritzker Award winner here. It's a first for UB and certainly the School of Architecture and Planning," said Brian Carter, dean of the school. "Murcott maintains that architecture, by definition, must embrace an intelligent response to environmental issues. His comprehensive approach to architecture has served as an inspiring example for several generations of architects."
Murcott's houses are carefully considered in regard to weather, land, regional characteristics and technological practicality. They produce their own shade and ventilation and often function without air conditioning or heating beyond a fireplace.
"Sustainability has to be included in an architect's thinking no differently than someone driving a car and not thinking twice about changing gears," Murcott said from a Buffalo hotel. "It must be as fluid as that."
Murcott prides himself on having his buildings work with the elements to find their place in the natural world. In opposing global warming, he points out that half of all greenhouse gases are created by sealed buildings.
Murcott said Buffalo's architectural reputation precedes it, and he hopes to squeeze in time to view the works of Wright, Eliel and Eero Saarinen and others.
"As the Finnish architectJuhani Pallasmaa said, at the end of our work we have to ask, 'Is it architecture or is it merchandise?' Clearly, Frank Lloyd Wright produced architecture," Murcott said.