President Barack Obama praised the winner of a top architecture prize Thursday for embodying a style that is, in his words, as "effortless as it is beautiful."
Obama lauded Eduardo Souto de Moura of Portugal at an awards ceremony where de Moura was receiving the 2011 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The esteemed prize is often referred to as the Nobel Prize for architecture.
De Moura has won acclaim for his careful use of natural materials and unexpected dashes of color. He has designed homes, hotels, museums, sports facilities and other structures, mainly in his native country but also elsewhere in Europe.
"His simple shapes and clean lines always fit seamlessly into the surroundings," Obama said.
The award dates back to 1979 and is financed by Chicago's Pritzker family, which founded the Hyatt hotel chain.
Obama has close ties to family heiress Penny Pritzker, who was his 2008 campaign finance chair, helping Obama set a record for presidential fundraising. Pritzker also is a member of a jobs and competitiveness council that advises Obama.
The president confessed to once harboring dreams of becoming an architect.
"I expected to be more creative than I turned out, so I turned to politics instead," he told the black-tie crowd at the majestic Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, itself considered an architectural work of art.
Among the de Moura projects cited by Pritzker jurors was a sports stadium he designed into a mountainside in Braga, Portugal, where the European soccer championship was held in 2004. Obama noted that the stadium is situated in such a way to give a vantage point to fans who can't afford to buy a ticket, "kind of like Portugal's version of Wrigley Field."
Among the guests at the event were actor and Tibet activist Richard Gere, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Chicago's new mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.