Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, known for his cross-cultural approach, scoops the profession's highest honour, receiving the 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize
The keenly anticipated announcement of the winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize 2019 came at the beginning of March: Japanese architect, city planner and theorist Arata Isozaki was awarded the discipline's highest accolade.
Widely regarded among his peers as a visionary and known for his commitment to the 'art of space', Isozaki is also notable for fostering a professional dialogue between practitioners in the East and West and for his reinterpretation of global movements and methods. He is also lauded for his skill in a wide range of techniques and his imaginative interpretation of site and context.
Isozaki is also notable for fostering a professional dialogue between practitioners in the East and West
The 2019 Pritzker jury citation noted, "Possessing a profound knowledge of architectural history and theory, and embracing the avant-garde, Isozaki never merely replicated the status quo, but his search for meaningful architecture was reflected in his buildings that to this day, defy stylistic categorisations, are constantly evolving and always fresh in their approach."
Born in Ōita on Kyushu, Japan in 1931, Isozaki's architectural ventures started not long after the Second World War, when the nation's recovery and rebuilding got underway in earnest."I wanted to see the world through my own eyes, so I travelled around the globe at least 10 times before I turned 30," said Isozaki. "I wanted to feel the life of people in different places and visited extensively inside Japan, but also to the Islamic world, villages in the deep mountains of China, Southeast Asia, and metropolitan cities in the US. I was trying to find any opportunities to do so, and through this, I kept questioning, 'what is architecture?'"
Isozaki is the 46th recipient of the prize, and the eighth to come from Japan.
Among his early works were those in his hometown, including Ōita Medical Hall (1960) and Annex (1972), and the Ōita Prefectural Library (1966, later renamed Ōita Art Plaza). The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1986) was his first international commission and while controversial at the time, Isozaki brought to the project an innate awareness of scale through a clever assemblage of volumes. Of the near-countless buildings he has created, perhaps the best known is Palau Sant Jordi (1990, Barcelona), a sports arena built for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games and sited partly below ground to reduce its profile. Other notable works include the Kitakyushu City Museum of Art (1974, Fukuoka), Allianz Tower (2014, Milan), Qatar National Convention Centre (2011), and Shanghai Symphony Hall (2014).
"Isozaki was one of the first Japanese architects to build outside of Japan during a time when Western civilisations traditionally influenced the East, making his architecture – which was distinctively influenced by his global citizenry – truly international," said Tom Pritzker, chairman of the Hyatt Foundation. "In a global world, architecture needs that communication."
Photos. Barcelona and Nara: Hisao Suzuki. Art Tower Mito: Yasuhiro Ishimoto