Japanese architect, city planner and theorist Arata Isozaki has won the 2019 Pritzker Prize for his ‘forward-thinking and transnational’ architecture
The Pritzker jury praised the 87-year-old for ‘facilitating dialogue between East and West, reinterpreting global influences within architecture, and supporting the development of younger generations in the field.’
Born in Ōita on Japan’s Island of Kyushu in 1931, Isozaki is the third-oldest recipient of the prize, which is regarded as the highest accolade in international architecture and is worth $100,000 (£72,000). He is also the eighth winner from Japan.
Isozaki travelled extensively around the world and worked for Kenzo Tange before establishing his own practice in 1963. Early reconstruction projects in his home town such as the 1960 Ōita Medical Hall and 1966 Ōita Prefectural Library were credited with pioneering a Japanese Brutalist aesthetic.
Ōita Prefectural Library
Source: Image by Yasuhiro Ishimoto
However, the ‘precise and dexterous’ architect eschewed aesthetic trends to pursue his own path and deliver an architecture simultaneously both ‘local and international’. In his first major overseas commission – the 1986 Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art – Isozaki harnessed the golden ratio and yin-yang theory to communicate eastern and western concord.
Later projects include the domed Palau Sant Jordi, built for Barcelona’s 1992 Olympics, the 209m-tall Allianz Tower in Milan, the 2008 Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, the 2011 Qatar National Convention Centre, and the 2014 Shanghai Symphony Hall. In 2005, he founded an Italian branch of his office.
Tom Pritzker, chairman of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award, said: ‘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. In a global world, architecture needs that communication.’
Stephen Breyer, a US Supreme Court Justice and chair of this year’s jury, said: ‘Isozaki is a pioneer in understanding that the need for architecture is both global and local—that those two forces are part of a single challenge. For many years, he has been trying to make certain that areas of the world that have long traditions in architecture are not limited to that tradition, but help spread those traditions while simultaneously learning from the rest of the world.’
Isozaki will receive the accolade at a ceremony in France’s Château de Versailles in May. Now in its 43nd year, the annual award has previously been won by luminaries including Frei Otto, Norman Foster, Oscar Niemeyer, Zaha Hadid, Shigeru Ban and Peter Zumthor.
China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing
Source: Image by Ryouissei
Allianz Tower in Milan
Source: Image by Plflcn
Arata Isozaki, born in Ōita, Island of Kyushu, Japan is known as a versatile, influential, and truly international architect. Setting up his own practice in the 1960s Isozaki became the first Japanese architect to forge a deep and long-lasting relationship between East and West.
Possessing a profound knowledge of architectural history and theory, and embracing the avant-garde, he never merely replicated the status quo, but challenged it. And in his search for meaningful architecture, he created buildings of great quality that to this day defy categorisations, reflect his constant evolution, and are always fresh in their approach.
Over the more than 50 years Arata Isozaki has been practicing, he has had an impact on world architecture, through his works, writings, exhibitions, the organization of important conferences and participation on competition juries.
He has supported many young architects from across the globe to have a chance to realise their potential. In such endeavours as the Fukuoka Nexus World Housing project (1988-1991) or Toyama Prefecture’s Machi-no-Kao (‘face of the city’) programme (1991-1999) he invited young international architects to develop catalytic projects in Japan.
Isozaki’s oeuvre has been described as heterogeneous and encompasses descriptions from vernacular to high tech. What is patently clear is that he has not been following trends but forging his own path.
An early exploration of a new vision for the city is seen in the project City in the Air, from the early 1960s, for a multi-layered city which hovers over the traditional city.
His first works in his home country of Japan include a masterpiece of Japanese Brutalism, the Ōita Prefectural Library (1966). Such projects as the Kitakyushu Central Library (1974) and the Gunma Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, opened in 1974, reveal an exploration of a more personal architecture.
In the museum, the clear geometry of the cube reflects his fascination with void and grid as it seeks to attain an equilibrium in which to display changing works of art.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Source: Image by Yasuhiro Ishimoto
Arata Isozaki’s reach and repertoire have expanded over the years to include projects of many scales and typologies and in numerous countries. In the United States, Isozaki is probably most well-known for undertaking the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1986) and the Team Disney building in Florida (1991).The first is a study of the vault or what he calls ‘rhetoric of the cylinder’ and the second is evidenced by a more playful use of shapes with a Postmodern flair.
Palau sant jordi hisao suzuki
Source: Hisao Suzuki
Many know his work through such significant buildings as the Sant Jordi Stadium for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He has undertaken exemplary works in China such as the CAFA (China Central Academy of Fine Arts) Art Museum in Beijing opened in 2008 or the Shenzhen Cultural Centre (2007) in Shenzhen, Guangdong.
Team Disney building in Florida
Source: Image by Sam Howzit
Isozaki has shown extraordinary dynamism in recent years with such works as Qatar Convention Centre (2011), the traveling inflatable Ark Nova (2013) designed with Anish Kapoor for regions in Japan affected by the 2011 tsunami, and the powerful yet elegant Allianz Tower in Milan, opened in 2018. Once again, it is a testimony to his ability to understand the context in all its complexity and to create a remarkable, well-crafted and inspiring building that is successful from city scale to the interior spaces.
Clearly, he is one of the most influential figures in contemporary world architecture on a constant search, not afraid to change and try new ideas.
His architecture rests on profound understanding, not only of architecture but also of philosophy, history, theory and culture. He has brought together East and West, not through mimicry or as a collage, but through the forging of new paths. He has set an example of generosity as he supports other architects and encourages them in competitions or through collaborative works. For all these reasons, the Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury has selected Arata Isozaki the 2019 Laureate.
Qatar Convention Centre, UAE
Source: Image by Hisao Suzuki
- Stephen Breyer (chair), US Supreme Court Justice
- André Aranha Corrêa do Lago, architectural critic, curator, and Brazilian ambassador to India
- Richard Rogers, architect and Pritzker laureate (2007)
- Sejima Kazuyo, architect and Pritzker laureate (2010)
- Benedetta Tagliabue, architect and educator
- Ratan N. Tata, chairman of Tata Trusts
- Wang Shu, architect, educator and Pritzker laureate (2012)
- Martha Thorne (executive director), dean, IE School of Architecture & Design
Previous Pritzker Prize winners
Pritzker winners collage
2019 Arata Isozaki (87), Japan
2018 Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi (90), India
2017 Rafael Aranda (55) Carme Pigem (54) and Ramon Vilalta (56) of RCR Arquitectes, Spain
2016 Alejandro Aravena (48), Chile
2015 Frei Otto (89), Germany
2014 Shigeru Ban (56), Japan
2013 Toyo Ito (71), Japan
2012 Wang Shu (48), China
2011 Eduardo Souto de Moura (58), Portugal
2010 Kazuyo Sejima (54) and Ryue Nishizawa (44), Japan
2009 Peter Zumthor (65), Switzerland
2008 Jean Nouvel (62), France
2007 Richard Rogers (73), UK
2006 Paulo Mendes da Rocha (77), Brazil
2005 Thom Mayne (61), USA
2004 Zaha Hadid (53), UK
2003 Jorn Utzon (84), Denmark
2002 Glenn Murcutt (66), Australia
2001 Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron (51), Switzerland
2000 Rem Koolhaas (56), Netherlands
1999 Norman Foster (63), UK
1998 Renzo Piano (60), Italy
1997 Sverre Fehn (72), Norway
1996 Rafael Moneo (58), Spain
1995 Tadao Ando (53), Japan
1994 Christian de Portzamparc (50), France
1993 Fumihiko Maki (65), Japan
1992 Alvaro Siza (57), Portugal
1991 Robert Venturi (65), USA
1990 Aldo Rossi, (59), Italy
1989 Frank Gehry (60), USA
=1988 Oscar Niemeyer (81), Brazil
=1988 Gordon Bunshaft (79), USA
1987 Kenzo Tange (73), Japan
1986 Gottfried Bohm (66), Germany
1985 Hans Hollein (51), Austria
1984 Richard Meier (49), USA
1983 IM Pei (66), China
1982 Kevin Roche (60), USA
1981 James Stirling (55), UK
1980 Luis Barragan (78), Mexico
1979 Philip Johnson (73), USA