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Spotlight: Toyo Ito

As one of the leading architects of Japan's increasingly highly-regarded architecture culture, 2013 Pritzker Laureate Toyo Ito (born June 1, 1941) has defined his career by combining elements of minimalism with an embrace of technology, in a way that merges both traditional and contemporary elements of Japanese culture.

Tower of Winds. Image © Tomio OhashiTama Art University Library. Image © Iwan BaanSendai Mediatheque. Image © Nacasa & Partners Inc.Taichung Metropolitan Opera House. Image © Lucas K. Doolan+ 16

Video: Thom Mayne Talks With Toyo Ito

At 71, the 2013 Pritzker Prize winner Toyo Ito is not content with settling down just yet, at least not architecturally-speaking. Where many architects have established distinct styles, Ito is known for constantly shifting, experimenting, questioning and developing his approach to architecture. As one member of the Prtizker jury put it "he has been working on one project all along - to push the boundaries of architecture. And to achieve that goal, he is not afraid of letting go what he has accomplished before.”

In this video entitled Learning from Laureates - which comes courtesy of the good folks at ARCHITECT magazine - fellow experimentalist and Pritzker Prize recipient (not to mention 2013 AIA Gold Medalist) Thom Mayne gets to grips with Ito's motivation. The pair of laureates converse via Skype examining the drive behind Ito's evolutionary approach, before getting down to discussing how they think architecture is being affected by society's biggest change yet - the advent of the post-digital age.

See more of Ito's work along with some of our previous coverage after the break...

AD Classics: Yatsushiro Municipal Museum / Toyo Ito

The city of Yatsushiro is known in Japan as a home for exemplary architecture - the legacy at least in part of Artpolis, a plan by the government of the Kumamoto Prefecture to seek out a range of talented architects to design cultural buildings in the cities of the region. Though the Artpolis scheme has been running for the past 22 years, perhaps its most successful building was completed back in 1991, with the construction of Toyo Ito's Yatsushiro Municipal Museum.

© Tuomas Kivinen© Yuki Seto© Yuki Seto© Yuki Seto+ 13

AD Classics: White U / Toyo Ito

Toyo Ito was commissioned for this building by his older sister after her husband sadly lost his battle with cancer in the 1970s. Having lived for a number of years in a high-rise apartment, she and her two young daughters wished to move to a site which had more connection to the ground; as luck would have it, the site next to Ito's own house was being sold at the time.

AD Classics: Tower of Winds / Toyo Ito & Associates

© Toyo Ito and Associates© Toyo Ito and Associates© Toyo Ito and Associates© Flickr User ..colb..+ 9

The Tower of Winds is a project largely indicative of Toyo Ito's approach to architecture, particularly his belief in the importance of technology and its vital role in the future of architecture. The project not only embraces technology and involves it in a dialogue with the city, but also establishes a direct symbolic relationship between nature and the installation.

The Life and Work of Toyo Ito, 2013 Pritzker Laureate

© Yoshiaki Tsutsui
© Yoshiaki Tsutsui

Until his third year of high school, Toyo Ito’s passion was not architecture, but baseball.

Fortunately for us all (and almost assuredly for the Pritzker laureate himself), he soon switched career paths.

Born in Seoul in 1941, Ito moved to Japan at the tender age of two. From the age of 12 (when his father died) to the time he went to University, Ito was part of the family business: making miso (bean paste). However, upon attending The University of Tokyo from 1965-1969, architecture became his life work. 

Read more on the life and work of Toyo Ito, the 2013 Pritzker Laureate, after the break...

Tama Art University Library. Image © Iwan Baan.Sendai Mediathique. Image © Nacasa & Partners.2002 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. Image © Sylvain DeleuWhite U, one of Ito's first works. Image © Koji Taki+ 8

AD Exclusive Interview: Toyo Ito, 2013 Pritzker Prize

Interview with Toyo Ito and ArchDaily via Skype
Interview with Toyo Ito and ArchDaily via Skype

A few days ago, we had the opportunity to talk with Toyo-san, the 2013 Pritzker Prize laureate. A short, but intense talk where Ito shares with us with precise words insights about his design process and what he thinks about architecture, everything connected to the human aspects of the profession, understanding and connecting to the people.

For you, what is architecture?

(Laughs) Hard question! Architecture is the relation between one person and another, something that can make people gather.

How did you felt, as an architect, in front of the disaster after the 2011 earthquake in Japan?

As a person facing such a disaster, I had the responsibility to do something for the people who had lost their homes in the area, and by talking to the people in the disaster area I saw a similarity to the previous question, what is architecture. I think it was a very good opportunity to rethink, to start from zero what architecture really is fundamentally.