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Toyo Ito wins RIBA Royal Gold Medal

Japanese architect Toyo Ito has sensationally scooped the RIBA Royal Gold Medal - one of architecture's most highly prized honours.

The announcement was made today (29 September) by RIBA president Jack Pringle, who described the 64-year old as an 'inspiration for generations of architects worldwide'.

It is understood that he saw off competition from Edward Cullinan and veteran modernist theorist Joseph Rykwert.

Best known in this country for his 2002 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion (pictured below), Ito has worked mostly in Japan, but has influenced architects across the globe.

He was born in Tokyo and went on to graduate from the University of Tokyo in 1965, before working for Kiyonori Kikutake.

In 1971 he opened his own office, Urban Robot - renamed Toyo Ito & Associates eight years later - and was inspired by early Modernist movements as he 'sought to erase conventional meaning from his work through minimalist tactics'.

During this period he built a number of projects, including White U (1976) and Silver Hut (1984), and developed an aesthetic of lightweight, permeable membranes composed of fabrics, perforated aluminium panels and expanded metal sheets.

This led to schemes such as the Tower of Winds (1986), Restaurant Nomad (1986) and Yatsushiro Municipal Museum (1991).

His other significant projects include the Sendai Médiathèque in Japan - described as a 'unique structure' with 'hardly any walls' - which won the World Architecture Award 2002 for the Best Building in Asia.

Ito's current work includes a range of both public and private projects throughout the world, including the Hôpital Cognacq-Jay in Paris, Relaxation Park in Torrevieja, Spain, and VivoCity in Singapore.

Pringle, who chaired the judging panel, said: 'For thirty years [Ito] has been a leading figure in architecture and I am delighted that he has accepted the Royal Gold Medal.

'He has been an inspiration for generations of architects worldwide since his work started to receive international acclaim in the 1970s.'

The other jury members were: Ian Ritchie, of Ian Ritchie Architects; Odile Decq, of Architectes Urbanistes; Chris Wilkinson, of Wilkinson Eyre; Professor Peter Cook; Amanda Baillieu, of the RIBA Journal, and Brian Clarke, artist and RIBA Honorary Fellow.

Approved personally by Her Majesty the Queen, the Royal Gold Medal will be officially presented to Ito at a ceremony at Portland Place on 15 February.

by Richard Waite

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