Who is Arata Isozaki? 20 Things to Know About the 2019 Pritzker Laureate

Who is Arata Isozaki? 20 Things to Know About the 2019 Pritzker Laureate

The prolific and varied career of 2019 Pritzker Laureate Arata Isozaki, which includes more than 100 works built on virtually every continent, gives us a huge amount of facts that are relevant to understanding his life and architecture. Considered the first Japanese architect to develop his work on a truly global scale, Isozaki took special care to respond to the context and the specific requirements of each project, expanding the heterogeneity of his work and resulting in a variety of styles from vernacular to high tech.

See below 20 fascinating facts that illuminate his particular genius:

1. The Second World War had an important influence on his early vision of architecture. At the age of 12, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombarded, fostering in him the idea of the temporality of architecture and the importance of 'pleasing' its users while they move through and experience it in their own time. [1]

2. His career began under the teachings of the 1987 Pritzker Prize, Laureate Kenzo Tange. [1] After university, Isozaki continued an apprenticeship with Tange for nine years before establishing his own firm in 1963, Arata Isozaki & Associates. [6]

3. Isozaki was a pioneer among Japanese architects when working on projects outside of his native country, designing for example the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1986) and the Team Disney Building in Florida (1991). [9]

Team Disney Building (1991). Image © Xinai Liang

4. Isozaki has built more than 100 architectural projects in 6 decades, including important public and cultural buildings in Japan, Spain, USA, China, Italy, Qatar, among many others around the world. [1]

5. He was a proponent and pioneer of architectural representation through the medium of silkscreen and thermal prints. [3]

6. Isozaki included in his work the concept of 'Ma', which defines the intermediate spaces between the objects: "In-between space, sound and sound, there are silences apart, pauses. That's called Ma. Space is important; in-between space is more important", he says. [5]

Concept of 'Ma'. Image © PLANE SITE

7. His work also integrated urbanism, developing in 1962 the futuristic project 'City in the Air' for the Shinjuku neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan. The project integrates "elevated layers of buildings, residences and transportation suspended above the aging city below, in response to the rapid rate of urbanization". [1]

City in the Air (1962). Image © The Pritzker Architecture Prize

8. Isozaki's work was always interdisciplinary: in addition to urban design, he worked on the design of fashions, graphics, furniture and set design, as well as writer, critic, jury of architectural competitions, and collaborator with artists. [6]

9. He also designed the Osaka Demonstration Robot for 1970 Osaka Expo, used for transportation. It was housed under Kenzo Tange's Festival Plaza space frame. [4]

Osaka Demonstration Robot (1970). Image via Cyberneticzoo.com

10. During the 70s and 80s, Isozaki worked recurrently with his third wife, the Japanese sculptor Aiko Miyawaki (1929-2014), who somehow soaked his works of innovative geometric shapes. [6]

11. Isozaki was a member of the first generation of juries of the Pritzker Prize, between 1979 and 1984. [1]

12. Due to its impact and global influence, in 1985, Tadao Ando, 1995 Pritzker Prize Laureate, called Isozaki "the Emperor of Japanese Architecture". [8]

13. Also in 1985, Isozaki also developed the redesign of interiors of the famous Discotheque Palladium, in New York, as a 'building inside a building'. The nightclub, formerly a ruined theater, became the site of incredible celebrity parties, including Madonna. It was demolished in 1998. [8]

Palladium Discotheque. Image © Timothy Hursley

14. Among many other important awards, he won the RIBA Gold Medal for Architecture in 1986 (United Kingdom) and the Gold Lion of the Venice Architectural Biennale, as commissioner of Japanese Pavilion, in 1996 (Italy). [1]

15. Throughout his career, Isozaki frequently resorted to the typology of "Groundscaper", since according to him, the fact of 'lying down' a skyscraper dissipates its 'intimidating power', becoming more 'serene and humble'. [6]

Groundscaper Typology: 'Tokyo’s New City Hall' Competition Entry (1985). Image via Genericarchitecture.tumblr.com

16. He was very interested in Latin American revolutions of the twentieth century, especially that of Cuba and the figure of Che Guevara. Isozaki even used to wear a beret with a star. [2]

17. Isozaki thinks that in the southern hemisphere all are minorities. That’s why he greatly values the architecture linked to the culture to which it belongs, demonstrating his doubts regarding the effectiveness of globalization. [2]

18. In 2011, together with the artist Anish Kapoor, Isozaki developed the inflatable structure Ark Nova, to host Lucerne festival. [10]

Ark Nova / Arata Isozaki + Anish Kapoor. Image © Ark Nova 2011

19. His artistic influences are very varied, from the Renaissance and classical architecture of Borromini and Schinkel, to the Constantin Brâncuşi’s Infinite Column and the sculptural work of Isamu Noguchi, including the Louis I. Kahn’s use of the cannon vault. [6]

20. In relation to his identity and architectural style, he states: "My identity is that every time I like to create a difference. Not in one single style, but also always according to the situation, according to the environment; an architectural style as a solution. Every time it's different". [5]

© The Pritzker Architecture Prize

[1] 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize Media Kit. Media Release Announcing the 2019 Laureate.
[2] Facts shared gently by Abel Erazo, chilean architect based in China, with whom Arata worked in the Hakata Bay Model for 21st Century Olympic Project (2006, Tokyo), with Taishi Watanabe, Kai Beck, Eijiro saiga, Hitomi Fukuyoshi, and Mai Watanabe.
[3] Matthew Allen. “Arata Isozaki and the Invisible Technicians.” Canadian Center of Architecture (CCA). 2016. <https://www.cca.qc.ca/en/issues/4/origins-of-the-digital/40596/arata-isozaki-and-the-invisible-technicians>
[4] “1970 – Expo’70 Osaka Demonstration Robot – Arata Isozaki (Japanese)” November 31th, 2011. <http://cyberneticzoo.com/robots/1970-expo70-osaka-demonstration-robot-arata-isozaki-japanese/>
[5] Lindsey Leardi. "Arata Isozaki on "Ma," the Japanese Concept of In-Between Space" 05 Nov 2017. ArchDaily. <https://www.archdaily.com/882896/arata-isozaki-on-ma-the-japanese-concept-of-in-between-space/> ISSN 0719-8884
[6] Steffen Lehmann. “Reappraising the Visionary Work of Arata Isozaki: Six Decades and Four Phases”. 7 July 2017. MDPI. <https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0752/6/3/10>
[7] AD Editorial Team. "Spotlight: Kenzō Tange" 04 Sep 2017. ArchDaily. <https://www.archdaily.com.br/br/624403/em-foco-arata-isozaki> ISSN 0719-8884
[8] Joseph Giovanniniaug. “Arata Izozaki: From Japan a New Wave of International Architects”. August 17th, 1986. <https://www.nytimes.com/1986/08/17/magazine/arata-isozaki-from-japan-a-new-wave-of-international-architects.html>
[9] Edan Corkill. “Isozaki Arata: Astonishing by Design”. June 1, 2018. <https://apjjf.org/-Edan-Corkill/2777/article.html>
[10] Eric Baldwin. "World's First Inflatable Concert Hall Opening in Japan" 01 Oct 2013. ArchDaily. <https://www.archdaily.com/433776/world-s-first-inflatable-concert-hall-opening-in-japan/> ISSN 0719-8884

About this author
Cite: AD Editorial Team. "Who is Arata Isozaki? 20 Things to Know About the 2019 Pritzker Laureate" 05 Mar 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/912602/who-is-arata-isozaki-20-things-to-know-about-the-2019-pritzker-laureate> ISSN 0719-8884



You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.