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Arata Isozaki, Pritzker 2019 Laureate


The 46th edition of the Pritzker Architecture Prize has recognised the career of the architect Arata Isozaki who, at the age of 87, follows in the footsteps of the man who was his mentor, Kenzo Tange, also a Pritzker Prize winner in 1987.

We highlight his first approach to architecture, which Isozaki describes as follows: “When I was old enough to begin an understanding of the world, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Everything around me was in ruins and there was no architecture, no buildings and not even a city, only barracks and shelters. So my first experience of architecture was the void of architecture, and I began to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities”.

He graduated in Architecture in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tokyo in 1954. In 1963 he founded Arata Isozaki & Associates. His first projects were in Oita, his hometown, and in Fukuoka, and later he built in Gunma, Osaka and Tokyo. Among the significant works of his early career are the Oita Prefectural Library (nowadays Art Plaza), the Museum of Modern Art in Gumma and Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art in Fukuoka.

Isozaki demonstrated a worldwide vision that was ahead of his time and facilitated a dialogue between East and West. “He was one of the first Japanese architects to build outside of Japan during a time when western civilizations traditionally influenced the East, making his architecture—which was distinctively influenced by his global citizenry—truly international. In a global world, architecture needs that communication”, comments Tom Pritzker, Chairman of Hyatt Foundation. He emerged as an international leader in architecture in the 1980s with his first overseas commission, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California.

Among his more than one hundred international works, we particularly highlight two Spanish projects: the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona and The House of Mankind in La Coruña, as well as the Shenzhen Cultural Center in China, Pala Alpitour in Turin, Allianz Tower in Milan and Qatar National Convention Center in Doha, among others.

In the 1960s Isozaki envisioned the “City in the Air”, a futuristic plan for the Japanese city of Shinjuku consisting of elevated layers of buildings, with transport suspended above the city below, in response to the rapid rate of urbanisation. Although the project was unrealised, Isozaki went on to plan cities in accelerating economies, always in the particular way of building and designing buildings that is his hallmark. According to the verdict of the Pritzker Prize jury, “he surpasses the framework of architecture to raise questions that transcend eras and borders”. His most recent projects are found in China and the Middle East.

Six decades of work by this grand master include philosophy, visual art, design, music, films and plays, alongside his iconic buildings.

Isozaki has served as a visiting professor at several U.S. universities such as Columbia, Harvard and Yale. He is based in Okinawa, with offices operating in Japan, China, Italy and Spain.




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