SANAA is a globally renowned reference in terms of an almost immaterial control of architectural shape and programme

Rolex Learning Center, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2010 (photo SANAA)

Established in 1995 in Tokyo as the combination of the two individual practices of Kazuyo Sejima (Ibaraki, 1956) and Ryue Nishizawa (Tokyo, 1966), SANAA is a globally renowned reference in terms of an almost immaterial control of architectural shape and programme. The uniqueness of its architecture lies in its mastery of the relationship with the surrounding environment – enclosure or disclosure, transparency or filtered translucence, full contact with the ground or buildings as free surfaces floating above the site.

Such relational choices are not a consequence of an ideology, but originate in the programme, namely the experience of the place, function and space. Fluidity between public dimension and private experience is created, differently finetuned according to each project. This approach sets SANAA firmly in contemporaneity. Theirs is a continuous dialogue with present experiences rather than a reference to the past.

Their experimental studies culminated with the appointment of Sejima as the curator of the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, SANAA creating the 2009 Serpentine Pavilion in London, and the duo being being awarded the 2010 Pritzker Prize. Their built works have explored all possible scales and functions.

See the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa (1999-2004); the Louvre-Lens Museum in Lens, France (2005-2012), which alternates material and immaterial restitution of the surrounding landscape through an almost theoretical employment of aluminium and glass; the generation of minimal open spaces by torsions of volume in Sejima’s Small House (Tokyo, 2000); and the translucence of the Kitagata housing complex in Tokyo (1995-2000) and of the Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne (2010). Here, perception is the key to time-and-place-specific designs.

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