Arata Isozaki Is The Winner Of The 2019 Pritzker Prize ⇒ The Pritzker Prize is one of the biggest honours in the architectural world. The lucky winner of 2019 is the Japanese-born Arata Isozaki, who spent his career pushing boundaries with his geometric designs. He may not be a household name like the previous winners, but his work has proven to stand the test of time. Today CovetED celebrates this incredible architect that will now be a sounding name in the industry.
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Art Tower Mito, located north of Tokyo, was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Arata Isozaki.
The announcement of Isozaki as the 2019 recipient means that his name will be uttered in the same breath as past laureates in the great canon of Pritzker Prize winners, such as Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Philip Johnson, Oscar Niemeyer, and Norman Foster. Today’s announcement also means, of course, that it will be yet another year until other major architects such as David Adjaye, Daniel Libeskind, César Pelli, David Chipperfield, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro can lay claim to the award.
The Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, designed by Isozaki in partnership with RHWL Architects. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo
Since opening his firm in Tokyo in 1963 at the age of 32, Isozaki has a catalogue of buildings that stand as a testament to Vitruvius’s creed. Isozaki, who has built museums, towers, bridges, libraries, furniture, corporate offices, pavilions, sports complexes, concert halls, and college buildings, among other structures, finds inspiration in not the grandness of the edifices he designs but the void of them. “Extravagance is, for me, complete silence,” said Isozaki. “Nothingness, that is extravagant.”
The exterior of a shopping district in Milan designed by Isozaki and Zaha Hadid. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo
Isozaki has been labelled in his country as Japan’s “guerrilla architect” for his ability to add visual puns to his designs. Isozaki’s work boasts irony that verges on the edge of altruism. This is most aptly displayed in his design for the Fujimi Country Club in Oita, Japan. The architect fashioned the roof into a giant question mark that begged the question: Why are the Japanese so hell-bent on using their country’s limited land to build golf courses?
The aftermath of World War II occurred during Isozaki’s formative years in Japan. It was during this time that his country was occupied by the United States, an episode that went on to define the architect’s style. “I am of the generation that grew up under the occupation of the United States,” said Isozaki. “I grew up in a traditional Japanese atmosphere until all of the sudden, Americanism arrived. That’s why [my work] is quite ambiguous.” While Isozaki has stated that he was against the United States’ occupation of Japan, it hasn’t curbed the criticism he receives from the more conservative factions within Japan who see him as a man who’s adopting Western architectural forms while neglecting his roots. Those who favour Isozaki’s vision would argue, however, that the architect is the very embodiment of Japan’s dilemma: how to be Japanese and Western at the same time
Completed in 1990, the Isozaki-designed Palau Sant Jordi has since become an iconic structure in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo
It wasn’t the first time a Japanese-born architect won the coveted award. Japan is now tied with the United States for the most Pritzker prizes (eight). This means, of course, that the architect carries on the legacy of previous winners from Japan: Shigeru Ban (2014), Toyo Ito (2013), Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, SANAA (2010), Tadao Ando (1995), Fumihiko Maki (1993), and Kenzō Tange (1987).
The Thessaloniki Concert Hall, designed by Arata Isozaki, located in Thessaloniki, Greece. Photo: Getty Images
It’s the last name in that esteemed group, however, that impacted Isozaki’s career the most. Tange (1913–2005) combined traditional Japanese motifs with modernism, influencing not only Isozaki but also luminaries such as Kengo Kuma. Yet the relationship between Tange and Isozaki was a special one: The most recent Pritzker Prize winner started his career under Tange. The elder’s mentorship lasted until 1963, when Isozaki left to found his own firm.
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