The Stirling Prize-winning architect was chosen for the prestigious award by the Architects’ Journal (AJ) and The Architectural Review, which recognises those who have “raised the profile of women in architecture”.
Editorial director of the titles Paul Finch praised Levete for founding an independent practice that has “blossomed internationally” and for being an “independent voice [who] has generated welcome debate and reform.”
“Jane Drew was a pioneer and led the way for us all so receiving a prize in her name is a great honour — particularly so following on from previous winners like Zaha [Hadid] and Denise Scott Brown,” Levete told Dezeen.
“Receiving this award exactly a century after women got the vote in the UK makes it all the more special,” she added.
Levete has been outspoken in her praise for the late architect Zaha Hadid, another recipient of the Jane Drew Prize. In a video for Dezeen Levete celebrated Hadid’s BMW Central Building as a “radical piece of thinking” that “laid bare to a wide public the importance of celebrating architecture”.
Levete founded her current practice AL_A in 2009, along with directors Ho-Yin Ng, Alice Dietsch and Maximiliano Arrocet.
Last year, AL_A completed a new entrance to London’s V&A Museum. The £54.5 million scheme to create a subterranean exhibition hall under a porcelain tiled courtyard was one of the most high-profile museum projects of 2017. The studio also completed a 37-storey tower in Bangkok covered in 300,000 reflective aluminium plates.
Levete’s rise through the traditionally male-dominated world of architecture ruffled more than a few feathers, with unnamed competitors sniping in the press that she was a “social networker“, and that she “gets immense control over a project.”
One anonymous piece bemoaned that media-savvy Levete used the services of personal trainers and makeup artists. Commentators frequently rehash stories of the architect being expelled from school for naked sunbathing and her being vocal on the merits of the de-stressing side effects of sex.
Undeterred by this sexist heckling, Levete has negotiated and delivered a series of high-profile buildings around the world.
In 2016, AL_A’s MAAT Museum in Lisbon – a sinuous tile-covered structure with a dramatic swooping roof – also opened. It proved so popular that the access bridge had to be temporarily closed as a precaution after 15,000 people flocked to admire it during its opening days.
Projects currently in the AL_A pipeline include the remodelling of the flagship Galeries Lafayette in Paris, a new Maggie’s Centre in Southampton, and a collaboration with artist Anish Kapoor for the Monte St Angelo subway station in Naples.
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