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Architect Ito Awarded Pritzker Prize

Monday, March 25, 2013

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Japanese architect Toyo Ito has been named the 2013 recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, one of the profession's most prestigious honors.

The 71-year-old architect, based in Tokyo, has produced a 40-year portfolio of work that "combines conceptual innovation with superbly executed buildings," according to the Pritzker jury's citation.

Ito's designs include the Tama Art University Library in Tokyo; Sendai Mediatheque in Miyagi, Japan; and the Za-Koenji Public Theatre in Tokyo.

Toyo Ito
Yoshiaki Tsutsui

"I will never fix my architectural style and never be satisfied with my works," said 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Toyo Ito.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize, sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation, is given annually “to a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture,” according to the award announcement.

As the 2013 Laureate, Ito will receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion at a ceremony May 29 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, MA.

Ito: Never Satisfied

“Architecture is bound by various social constraints,” Ito commented after winning the prize.

“I have been designing architecture bearing in mind that it would be possible to realize more comfortable spaces if we are freed from all the restrictions even for a little bit.

Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture
Daici Amo

Ito is referred to as a "creator of timeless buildings" by the Pritzker Prize jury. Above: Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture, 2006-2011, Imabari-shi, Ehime, Japan.

“However, when one building is completed, I become painfully aware of my own inadequacy, and it turns into energy to challenge the next project. Probably, this process must keep repeating itself in the future.

“Therefore, I will never fix my architectural style and never be satisfied with my works,” he said.

The Pritzker Prize jury recognized Ito’s lifelong quest and dedication to the process of discovery in each commission.

Tama Art University Library
Ishiguro Photographic Institute

Tama Art University Library (Hachioji campus) in Tokyo, illustrates Ito's "understanding of the people and the activities within" a building, the jury said.

Calling him a “creator of timeless buildings,” the jury honored Ito for “infusing his designs with a spiritual dimension and for the poetics that transcend all his works.”

Early Designs

Ito began working in the firm of Kiyonori Kikutake & Associates after he graduated from Tokyo University’s Department of Architecture in 1965. In 1971, he founded his own studio, Urban Robot (Urbot), in Tokyo. The firm name was later changed to Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects.

Ito’s earliest works were residences. One was a home called “Aluminum House” in a Tokyo suburb. The structure consisted of a wooden frame completely covered in aluminum, according to the award announcement.

White U house
Koji Taki

Ito designed this home, called "White U," for his sister in Nakano-ku, Tokyo.

In 1976, he produced a home for his sister, who had recently lost her husband. The house was called “White U” and generated a great deal of interest in Ito’s works, the award officials said.

Of most of his work in the 1980s, Ito explains that he was seeking to erase conventional meaning from his works through minimalist tactics, developing lightness in architecture that resembles air and wind.

'High Point' Project

The Sendai Mediatheque, completed in 2001 in Sendai City, Miyagi, Japan, is a high point of his long career, Ito said.

Sendai Mediatheque
Tomio Ohashi

Ito calls the Sendai Mediatheque, in Miyagi, Japan, a high point of his career.

In the Phaidon book Toyo Ito, he explains, “The Mediatheque differs from conventional public buildings in many ways.

"While the building principally functions as a library and art gallery, the administration has actively worked to relax divisions between diverse programs, removing fixed barriers between various media to progressively evoke an image of how cultural facilities should be from now on.”

Ito's many other awards include the 2006 Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal and the 2010 Praemium Imperiale by the Japan Art Association.

About Pritzker Prize

The Pritzker Architecture Prize was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy.

Meiso no Mori Municipal Funeral Hall

"It is far more complex and riskier to innovate while working on buildings where the public is concerned, but that has not deterred him," the jury said on Ito. Above: Meiso no Mori Municipal Funeral Hall, 2004-2006, Kakamigahara-shi, Gifu, Japan.

Ito is the sixth Japanese designer to receive the award, following Kenzo Tange in 1987, Fumihiko Maki in 1993, Tadao Ando in 1995, and Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa in 2010.

Recent recipients include Eduardo Souto de Moura of Portugal in 2011 and Wang Shu of The People’s Republic of China in 2012.

For more information, including more photos and a list of jury members, click here.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Awards and honors; Building design; Color + Design; Design; Pritzker Architecture Prize

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/25/2013, 11:21 AM)

That is some awesome work. Very deserving.

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