Arata Isozaki wins Pritzker Prize 2019

The Japanese architect, whose buildings “to this day defy categorisations”, has been named the 2019 laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.  

Isozaki was selected as the 46th recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize for after a six-decade career that has seen over 100 diverse works built across the Middle East, Europe, Asia, America and Australia. 

“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,” reads a citation from the jury, which included Richard Rogers, Sejima Kazuyo, Wang Shu and Martha Thorne.  

“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.” 

Born in 1931 in Oita, Japan, Isozaki graduated from the Department of Architecture at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tokyo in 1954, before swiftly establishing his practice Arata Isozaki & Associates.

The devastation of WWII saw his early career dedicated to reconstruction efforts in Japan. The impact of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings had a profound effect on his career: “When I was old enough to begin an understanding of the world, my hometown was burned down. Across the shore, the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, so I grew up on ground zero,” he recalls. 

“It was in complete ruins, and there was no architecture, no buildings and not even a city. Only barracks and shelters surrounded me. So, my first experience of architecture was the void of architecture, and I began to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities.”

Among his earliest works are several projects for his hometown, including the Medical Hall (1959-60) and the Ōita Prefectural Library (1962-1966). But works overseas quickly followed: the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1986), the Team Disney building in Florida (1991), Allianz Tower (2003-2014) and the CityLife complex (2012-2015) in Milan, the Qatar National Convention Center in Doha (2004-2011), the Shanghai Symphony Hall (2008-2014) and most recently the renovation of the Bass Museum in Miami (2017). 

“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,” says Tom Pritzker, chair of the Hyatt Foundation. “In a global world, architecture needs that communication.”

“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,” adds jury chair Justice Stephen Breyer. “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 recieve his bronze medallion and $100,000 grant in a ceremony held at Château de Versailles this spring. 

The prize has previously gone to Balkrishna Doshi (2018), RCR Arquitectes (2017), Shigeru Ban (2014), Alejandro Aravena (2016), Rem Koolhaas (2000) and Philip Johnson, who recieved the inaugeral Pritzker Prize in 1979. 

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