Arata Isozaki, the 2019 Pritzker Prize winner for his “contribution to humanity through the art of architecture” lifestyle
Renowned for going beyond styles and exerting an almost allegorical connection between east and west through architecture, Isozaki stands out because of his projects on four continents, namely: El Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona and the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles.
The “emptiness of architecture” in post-war Japan marked the beginnings of his career, based on building each project for himself, for people and their environment.
At 87 years old, Arata Isozaki (Oita, 1931) is the 2019 Pritzker Prize winner. The world’s highest recognition in architecture awarded by the Hyatt Foundation, Isozaki picks up this award at the end of his career, after more than 60 years of work, and a hundred projects.
Architect, urban planner and theoretician, Isozaki has been awarded by the 49th Pritzker Awards Jury for his “consistent and significant contributions to humanity through the art of architecture.” People say of his work that: “it exceeds the framework of architecture to raise issues which go beyond eras and borders“, and that it is capable of challenging “categorisation” through projects and structures that “are kept contemporary from his point of view”.
Boldness before the first sketch
Born in Oita on Kyushu Island in Japan, this architect is renowned for being versatile, influential and international. After studying architecture at the University of Tokyo and founding his own studio: Arata Isozaki & Associates in 1963; he chose Kenzo Tange (Pritzker Prize in 1987) as his mentor, with whom he laid the foundations of the Japanese metabolism. Isozaki has always faced his work as an architect “with a deep commitment to art and space” and with “precision and dexterity” that is shown in “building techniques, in the interpretation of location and context and in the intentionality of detail”, according to the Pritzker Prize decision.
Although there is influence of metabolism and brutalism in Isozaki’s work, this Japanese architect is known for never having tried to assert himself in a single style. His aspiration in his work is to try to integrate his architecture into its place of origin.
“For many, style is synonymous with status; for me, having style means having given up on other possibilities”, Isozaki said in an interview.
The mastery of different disciplines, namely: philosophy, theory, history and culture; mark the evolution of his significant architecture. A style lacking in style that began to be forged in post-war Japan.
An identity which came about in the post-war period
Arata Isozaki was 12 years old when the atomic bombs left Hiroshima and Nagasaki reduced to ashes. That “emptiness of architecture” made him consider “how people could rebuild their homes and cities.” The problems of his country and the American cultural influence of the occupation after the war, outlined the identity of a young architect who wanted to establish connections around the world. He was a pioneer in initiating contacts and exchanges with other professionals, and even preceded Kenzo Tange when he went abroad to build.
After having discovered his vocation as an architect, Arata Isozaki lent a hand in the reconstruction of his country after the Second World War.
Thanks to that cosmopolitan attitude and the thirst for movement, Isozaki’s work is recognised as being diverse. He has been the first Japanese architect who established a “strong long-lasting relationship between east and west”, affirms the Pritzker Prize jury.
Without any doubt whatsoever, the library project in his home town in 1996 is considered as being one of his masterpieces, but there are many more. It is worth highlighting his internationally-renowned work in projects such as: the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles, MOCA, (1986); and the Team Disney building in Florida (1991). The former is a study about the vault, which was coined by Isozaki as “the rhetoric of the cylinder”. However, the latter offers a more playful use of shapes with postmodern nuances.
One of his other symbolic projects is the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona. A covered pavilion which was designed for the Olympic Games in 1992 and whose opening event took place two years before.
Thinking about how to build more than the expected final shape of the building is a characteristic of the best work by Arata Isozaki.
After more than five decades of work and about one hundred constructed buildings, Isozaki’s work has had a great influence on the world of architecture. His future global perspective, along with his passion for brainstorming on every new project, have led him to obtaining this distinction at the age of 87. He is the eighth Japanese person to achieve this.
Isozaki will be awarded with the 2019 Pritzker Prize at a ceremony which will take place in Paris in May. He will be given the famous bronze medal on which three key principles of the Vitruvio architecture are inscribed: Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas (firmness, commodity and delight).
- 1 Boldness before the first sketch
- 2 An identity which came about in the post-war period