2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate: Arata Isozaki

"City in the Air", image: Arata Isozaki and Associates 

Japanese architect Arata Isozaki was named the 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate. He is the 46th recipient of the prize, and the 8th hailing from Japan.

The 87-year-old architect, theorist, and planner is known for an amorphous catalogue of work, both realized and conceptual, that continues to challenge the legacy of Modernism and our present period of globalization. Charles Jenks, in The Japan Architect's 1976 March issue, once wrote of the young practitioner:

"Isozaki's "counterarchitecture," like Superstudio's architecture, inverts the conventional meanings of previous modern work...[and] incorporates not only the language of Western modernists, but a richer spectrum including all elements of society."

Ōita Prefectural Library, photo: Yasuhiro Ishimoto

Ark Nova, photo: Iwan Baan

Isozaki, an adolescent during the Second World War, witnessed and engaged in the reconstruction of the Japanese built environment after its end, and has stated:

"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 near ground zero. 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."

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, photo: Yasuhiro Ishimoto

Museum of Contemporary Art, Gunma, rendering: Arata Isozaki and Associates 

From these beginnings, Isozaki began an illustrious career that has now spanned five decades, one that has involved an apprenticeship with Kenzo Tange (the 1987 Laureate), a loose affiliation with the Metabolist movement and later the New York avant-garde, the design of an inflatable concert hall for the victims of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and the testing of megastructure developments internationally. Notable works include "City in the Air" (1961), the Oita Prefectural Library (1966), the Museum of Modern Art, Gunma (1974), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1996), Ceramic Park Mino (2002),  and the Qatar National Convention Center (2013).

In addition to practice, Isozaki has also repeatedly served as a critic and juror for significant architectural commissions and competitions, to support the work of vanguard practices globally. 

Nara Centennial Hall, photo: Hisao Suzuki 

"Isozaki was one of the first Japanese architects to build outside of Japan during a time when western civilizations traditionally influenced the East, making his architecture—which was distinctively influenced by his global citizenry—truly international," the Pritzker jury stated. "In a global world, architecture needs that communication."

Qatar National Convention Center, photo: Hisao Suzuki