Arata Isozaki gets Pritzker Prize for work transcending eras

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Japanese architect, urbanist and theorist Arata Isozaki, 87, on Tuesday was awarded the 2019 Pritzker Prize for a career during which he was “not afraid to change and try new ideas,” according to the prize jury’s announcement issued in Chicago.

“Clearly, he is one of the most influential figures in contemporary world architecture ... His architecture rests on profound understanding, not only of architecture but also of philosophy, history, theory and culture. He has brought together East and West, not through mimicry or as a collage, but through the forging of new paths,” the panel said.

“Isozaki’s oeuvre has been described as heterogeneous and encompasses descriptions from vernacular to high tech,” said the citation issued by the Pritzker judging panel, which this year included architects Richard Rogers , Kazuyo Sejima , Wang Shu , along with US Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer , among others.


“What is patently clear is that he has not been following trends but forging his own path,” said the panel.

Considered a visionary by his colleagues, Isozaki - the eighth Japanese to win the coveted award - has always shown “a profound knowledge of architectural history and theory, and embracing the avant-garde, he never merely replicated the status quo but challenged it,” the panel said.

“And in his search for meaningful architecture, he created buildings of great quality that to this day defy categorizations, reflect his constant evolution, and are always fresh in their approach,” the award committee added.

Born in Oita, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, in 1931, Isozaki began to stand out as an architect during the island nation’s reconstruction after the devastation of World War Two.

He has shown himself to be a versatile and influential designer and - since creating his very first works during the 1960s - he was the first Japanese architect to “forge a deep and long-lasting relationship between East and West.”

With a career spanning more than five decades, and with around 100 constructed buildings to his credit, Isozaki has had a huge impact on architecture, to which he has also contributed by means of numerous theoretical works, expositions and conferences.

Some of his most outstanding creations ini Japan include the Kitakyushu Central Library and the Gunma Museum of Modern Art, along with the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Team Disney building in Florida, the Sant Jordi Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, the China Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum in Beijing and the Shenzhen Cultural Center (2007) in Shenzhen, China.

Additional iconic works include the Qatar Convention Center, the traveling inflatable Ark Nova designed with Anish Kapoor for regions in Japan affected by the 2011 tsunami and the elegant Allianz Tower in Milan.

The Pritzker Prize comes with $100,000 in cash, a certificate and a bronze medallion.