German architect Frei Otto has won the prestigious Pritzker Prize, one day after his death at the age of 89.

Otto, renowned for designs which incorporated lightweight tent-like structures, was informed he had won architecture’s highest accolade shortly before his death, a statement on Tuesday said.

“Frei Otto’s career is a model for generations of architects and his influence will continue to be felt,” said Tom Pritzker, who chairs the foundation which bestows the honour.

“The news of his passing is very sad, unprecedented in the history of the prize. We are grateful that the jury awarded him the prize while he was alive.”

Otto, who designed the distinct tented roof above Munich’s Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 1972 Summer Games and the 1974 World Cup final, had been due to receive the award in Miami at a ceremony in May.

In comments by the architect made before his death, Otto said he had “never done anything to gain this prize”.

“My architectural drive was to design new types of buildings to help poor people, especially following natural disasters and catastrophes,” he said.

“So what shall be better for me than to win this prize? I will use whatever time is left to me to keep doing what I have been doing.”

Pritzker organisers described Otto as a “distinguished teacher and author” who pioneered the use of modern lightweight structures for many uses.

“He believed in making efficient, responsible use of materials and that architecture should make a minimal impact on the environment,” a statement said.

Otto was “a Utopian who never stopped believing that architecture can make a better world for all.”

Born in 1925, Otto grew up in Berlin, where he later studied architecture.

He flew in the Luftwaffe during World War Two, and spent time in a prisoner of war camp in France after his plane was shot down.