Monaco-based architect Emilio Ambasz wins prestigious IN/ARCH award

emilio ambasz monaco

Once described as the “father, poet and prophet” of green architecture, Monaco-based architect Emilio Ambasz has been honoured with the Italian National Institute of Architecture Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The Italian National Institute of Architecture, colloquially known as IN/ARCH, has awarded its Lifetime Achievement Award to a pioneer in the field of green architecture, Emilio Ambasz.  

The eminent 80-year-old, who is originally from Argentina but is now based in Monaco, was the first person not from Italy to be selected for this prize. That said, his long-running connections to Italy, such as Ambasz’s celebrated ‘Italy: The New Domestic Landscape’ exhibition at the MoMA in 1972, did earn him considerable praise from the jury members.  

“This groundbreaking exhibition not only marked the first real introduction of the Italian identity to the United States, but also transcended borders, impacting everything from the urban landscapes to objects, homes and even the automotive industry, offering an extraordinary stage to our country’s young talents,” said a speaker for the IN/ARCH jury.  

“Green over grey” is the personal design philosophy of Emilio Ambasz. Photo supplied

Over his long and storied career, the Argentinian has left a string of architectural and design marvels in his wake, creating buildings and objects for clients all over the world, including in Japan, Europe and the United States.

His pioneering approach to industrial design stands out in a world of mostly cold and stark structures by incorporating gardens and greenery wherever possible. Indeed, his motto of “green over grey” is more than lip-service.  

His reach extends beyond just buildings. He is also known as the creator of the first automatically ergonomic chair, the Vertebra chair, which was developed in collaboration with Giancarlo Piretti in 1975. This iconic chair not only sparked a new industry within the sector, but also earned the Compasso d’Oro award in 1981.  

The revolutionary Vertebra chair developed in collaboration with Giancarlo Piretti in 1975. Photo supplied

When asked to comment on the IN/ARCH’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Ambasz said, “I’m deeply touched to receive this generous award. It is a great honour to be the first foreigner to receive it. We need an architecture that serves as a pact of reconciliation between nature and buildings. As architects and designers, our responsibility is to create an alternative future for a better quality of life, provide a roadmap to guide away from perpetuating the present conditions: I believe that all architectural projects failing to propose a new or a better existence are unethical.” 


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Photos supplied