On March 5, 2019, the winner of architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, the Pritzker Architecture Prize, was announced as 87-year-old Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. He is the 46th recipient of the prize and the 8th Japanese architect who has won. This year’s ceremony will be held in May at the Château de Versailles right outside of Paris, France.
What is the Pritzker Architecture Prize?
The prize was established in 1979 by the Pritzker family from Chicago, founders of the Hyatt Hotels and Foundation. Each year it is awarded to a or multiple living architects for their work and contribution to humanity. It is considered the highest honour in the world of architecture and winners receive US$100,000 and a bronze medallion. Nominations are submitted by past laureates, critics, academics, and even by an architect nominated him or herself. A jury of five to nine experts then select the winner(s).
Who is Arata Isozaki?
Arata Isozaki was born in 1931 in the town of Ōita on Kyushu Island, Japan. He was only 14 years old when nuclear bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. As Hiroshima was just across the sea from his hometown, his early teenaged years were spent near a city devoid of architecture, completely in ruins. He therefore began to reflect on how the city and homes could be rebuilt. As Japan recovered from World War II, Isozaki went on to the University of Tokyo where he studied with Professor Kenzo Tange, the 1987 Pritzker Prize winner.
After graduating in 1954 he set up his own practice nine years later and began to design projects in Japan and around the world. He is notable in that he does not have a particular style. Rather, he approaches each project by looking at the environment and designing a structure that fits the location and the purpose. With his adaptability, fans of roulette are waiting to see if Isozaki will follow in the footsteps of his fellow laureate Zaha Hadid who collaborated with the City of Dreams in Macau and design a new casino.
What are his accomplishments and prizes?
With a career spanning over more than six decades and a portfolio full of buildings across five continents, Isozaki’s Pritzker Prize is one more to be added to his extensive list of awards. His first award, the Annual Prize of the Architectural Institute of Japan, came in 1967, only four years after beginning his practice. He won the prize a second time in 1975. He went on to be awarded the prestigious RIBA Gold Medal in 1986, a prize dating back to 1848 that recognizes an architect for his overall contribution to international architecture. Other prizes Isozaki has won include the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1988), the Chicago Architecture Award (1990), and the ECC Award (2012).
What is his input to the theory of urbanism?
After the end of WWII in Japan, Metabolism, an architectural and urbanistic movement began. This movement saw a study of the relationship between humans and the constructed environment around them. The idea was that there should be constant transformation as the city and its structures are like living organisms that develop over time.
Isozaki arrived after the Metabolists, but his 1962 proposal “City in the Air” was based on the idea of a city’s continual metamorphosis. The project showed capsules suspended in the air above other modular structures. Each unit would be added or removed based on the needs of the residents, a flexibility that is still today in the forefront of architectural works.
What is Ark Nova?
An inflatable travelling concert hall, Ark Nova was designed in 2013 by Isozaki and Anish Kapoor, a British artist. It was modelled on Kapoor’s inflatable Leviathan sculptures created for a Paris exhibition in 2011. With 500 seats, the Ark Nova was created to bring music, theatre, and dance to regions of Japan affected by the 2011 tsunami. One musical event, the Lucerne Festival Ark Nova took place in Matsushima and was initiated by the Swiss International Lucerne music festival. The Ark Nova or “New Ark” was chosen as a symbol of recovery, as was Noah’s Ark from the Bible.
What are his most notable works?
- Oita Prefectural Library (1966), Expo ’70 Festival Plaza in Osaka (1970), Museum of Modern Art in Gunma, & Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art in Fukuoka (1974), all examples of Japanese Brutalism
- City in the Air (proposal), 1962, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district
- the twisted-metal Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, Japan
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1986), an example of the “rhetoric of the cylinder”/study of the art
- Team Disney Building (1990) Florida, a postmodern design with a playful use of shapes
- Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona, a sports arena for the 1992 Summer Olympics which combined Catalan building styles with a Buddhist temple profile in a blending of East and West
- Shenzhen Cultural Centre (2007)
- Doha’s Qatar National Convention Centre (2011)
- Shanghai Symphony Hall (2014)
- Allianz Tower, Milan (2015)