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Two architects, Gordon Bunshaft and Oscar Niemeyer, whose works have been among the most influential and recognized in this century, have been named Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates of 1988.

Niemeyer, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and will be 81 this year, is perhaps best known for designing most of the buildings in Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil. He began his career in 1936, achieving his first taste of international acclaim in a collaboration with Le Corbusier on the building for the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro. It attracted world-wide attention at the time as one of the first buildings to express the emerging concepts of the modern architectural movement.In the late '40s, the two again worked together on the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

He is the sixth architect from outside the United States to receive the prize.

Bunshaft, who celebrated his 79th birthday this year, lives in New York City. He has designed many buildings there, one of which, Lever House, has been declared an historic landmark and which Bunshaft calls "my first real building."

The 60-story Chase Manhattan Bank, the Union Carbide Building and the original PepsiCo Building are all Bunshaft additions to the New York skyline.

In Washington, D.C., the Hirshhorn Museum has become a familiar addition to the cultural landscape. In his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., he designed another art museum, the addition to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, described by another Pritzker Laureate as "the most beautiful museum in the world."

In Texas the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and at Yale the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library add to the distinction of their designer, whose career at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, New York, spanned over four decades.

His last building for that firm before retiring was one he calls "one of my best and most unique projects," the National Commercial Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The purpose of the prize is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

The prize consists of a $10,000 grant, a certificate and a medallion. When the Pritzker family established the prize, they wanted to honor a creative endeavor not included in the Nobel Prizes.

They modeled their procedures and rewards after the latter. As with the Nobels, the two Pritzker Laureates chosen by the jury in 1988 will share the prize equally.

"Both men represent the philosophy of modernism that has given form to the singular resources of the 20th century. A great debt is owed to these two men by their fellow architects as well as the public they serve. In awarding this prize for lifetimes of achievement," concludes the jury citation, "we gratefully acknowledge that debt."

* Joseph Linton is an architect in Highland, Utah County. He welcomes other viewpoints.