Architects, not Architecture: Toyo Ito

On November 17th, 2021, as a part of the second season of the Virtual World Tour, Architects, not Architecture had the honor to have as guest the 2013 Pritzker Prize Toyo Ito.

We all might be familiar with his works, but how much do we know about his biography and about the vicissitudes that shaped him?

During the event, Toyo Ito revealed the four natural elements that had a considerable impact on his way of thinking, designing and conceiving his projects.

The first element is the primeval landscape, a constant presence during his childhood. Ito grew up in Suwa Lake, in the Nagano Prefecture. The lake is a basin, surrounded by mountains in all directions. The different seasons provide different experiences of this very same scenery. This landscape also offered a sense of interiority and closeness from the outside. It´s along the Suwa Lake that he designed a small scale museum, whose external materials would alternatively reflect on the water or change color, according to the season.

The second element is the “void as core”: his architecture was created by the things he saw and experienced during his life, amongst these, Ito has a strong memory of an old map of Tokyo, by Roland Barthes, in *L´Empire des signes.* The map shows the presence of Edo Palace in the city center, surrounded by streets and water and now replaced by the Imperial Palace. Despite the fact that these important landmarks were in the city center, it was not allowed for people to go there. Ito maintained the same philosophy for his very first project, the U House, demolished in 1997, that, as the name says had a U-shape plan, built around a courtyard. An introspective building closed from the outside intended to host a widow and her daughters, with a few openings towards the courtyard.

As third, Ito mentioned one of the most important elements of the Japanese culture: water. Water or fluidity are conceived by Ito as a connective element. “Today we can call information also invisible water” reflects Ito during his talk and, according to this principle, the Sendai Mediatheque is thought as a fluid space without defined walls or rooms, where people, wind and air circulate freely. The very first sketch of this well-known project was imagined like a seaweed floating on the water.

Inner nature is lastly another essential aspect of Ito´s architecture and he explained it to us through a beautiful sketch that illustrates a viewing of the cherry blossom. For this special event, people would gather in circle, surrounded by circular cloth curtains, contemplating the cherry blossom. The temporary structure creates a sacral space inside, that is dismantled once the occasion is over. For the University Library in Taiwan, he tried to recreate nature in an abstract form, with columns that give visitors the impression that they are in a wooded landscape.

After graduating, he apprenticed with Kikutake Kiyonori, one of the leaders of the Metabolist school and it was at this time that he started thinking that architecture could be interesting. He aimed to study liberal arts but he didn’t get accepted anywhere, so he ended up studying engineering instead.

Amongst his other passions, Ito is fond of winemaking and he built a winery on the island where the Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture is located.

AnA Virtual Tour will continue for the last two episodes of 2021. The next stops are gonna be in Los Angeles on November 30th, where we will meet with Clive Wilkinson, from Clive Wilkinson Architects, and Lorcan O’Herlihy, from Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects and in Turkey on December 8th where we will have with us Emre Arolat, from EAA – Emre Arolat Architecture and Melike Altinisik, from MAA – Melike Altinisik Architects.

You can still catch up with the past events and watch them on-demand on the Architects, not Architecture’s website.

If you want to keep up to date and get insightful content, make sure you follow them on Instagram (@architectsnotarchitecture).

About this author
Cite: Diego Hernández. "Architects, not Architecture: Toyo Ito" 01 Dec 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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