While the selection of Shu may seem surprising, it follows a recent trend away from the starchitect ascendance of the last decade and towards a "spare, muscular formal language with an emphasis on craftsmanship and regional character."
Hawthorne sees another agenda at work in the selection, a rebuke to the vapid qualities of much of contemporary Chinese architecture. "It's clear that for the eight-member Pritzker jury...his firm's intentionally imperfect work stood out as a thoughtful alternative to the sleekly generic towers that now dominate the skylines of rapidly expanding Chinese cities."
Hawthorne had an opportunity to speak to Shu on Saturday, prior to the announcement, in advance of a long-scheduled lecture at UCLA. Among the items discussed was Shu's, "eagerness in several recent project to collaborate with -- and even cede design control to -- the contractors and construction workers who build his projects."
Another item of discussion was the role of Shu's wife and design partner, Lu Wenyu, in the work of the firm, and whether her omission from the prize repeats the erroneous exclusion of Denise Scott Brown in 1991.