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The 2019 Pritzker Award Conferred upon International Avant-Garde Ar. Isozaki

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on 17 days ago

© Courtesy of internet resources

Born in 1931 in the Oita town of Japan’s Kyushu Island, he graduated from Tokyo University’s Faculty of Architecture and Engineering in 1954, following which he pursued a PhD from the same institute. But, a more important influence on his work was an impression he carried from a high impact event from his teenage. The bombing of Hiroshima located across the shore from his town left a 12 year old Isozaki surrounded by an environment of ruinous destruction. So, as he describes, his first experience of architecture was a total absence of standing buildings or a built city, a ‘void of architecture’ as such from which a whole new generation of Japanese citizens with evolved sensitivities and styles emerged while rebuilding their cities after the second world war. This impressed upon Isozaki the cyclic order of creation, destruction and re-creation which took away permanence from any built form; it gave rise to a movement called ‘Metabolism’, which saw buildings as an extension of human activity necessitating them to respond flexibly to the same, among architects of his time. After his education, young Isozaki began his architectural career assisting Ar Kenzo Tange, another Pritzker laureate, becoming his protégé before starting his own practice in 1963.

© Courtesy of internet resources

Arata Isozaki is most credited with never adhering to a single style but adapting in response to contexts with an undiminishing freshness in every new building. He is, indeed, admired for the mastery with which he blends eastern/ ethnic practices with contemporary world styles, or bridges the categorization between eastern and western architectural philosophies. His buildings often portray an artistic weave between solid geometric resolutions and fluid forms, again defying any possible visual divisions but appearing in a masterfully harmonious revelation al the same. The political and economic uncertainty of the period of his growth prevented Isozaki from dwelling upon one particular style, As a result, he said: “Change became constant. Paradoxically, this came to be my own style.”

© Courtesy of internet resources

For someone who claims destruction and void to be at the core of his spatial understanding, his buildings have a beautiful denouement of freshness, a never-ceasing newness about them. “His architecture rests on profound understanding, not only of architecture but also of philosophy, history, theory and culture” read the citation by the award jury which also acknowledge that “He has brought together East and West, not through mimicry or as a collage, but through the forging of new paths”. 

 

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

His first architectural commission was the Oita Prefectural Library for his school in his hometown, followed by the Kitakyushu City Library, Fujimi Country Club (1973-74) in his hometown, Oita – all part of the rebuilding of post war Japan. More recent works in Japan include the Art Tower of Mito (1990) and the Ceramic Park Mino in Gifu, 

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

His first international building commission was the Museum of Contemporary Art at Los Angeles, USA which, with its vaulted hall and pyramidal glass skylights paraphrasing its modernist red sandstone block, remains the work he is best known for in this country. Some more international works that followed were the Palau San Jordi – a stadium in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympics, the Team Disney Orlando building in Florida and many others  More recently, some works from his prolific portfolio include; Shenzhen Cultural Centre; the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha; Shanghai Symphony Hall; and Allianz Tower in Milan. Among some works of Isozaki which display his versatility, adaptability and innovative capacity could be named the Ark Nova, an inflatable portable concert hall that he designed with artist Anish Kapoor in 2013 to help tsunami affected Japanese citizens to resurrect their socio-cultural lives.

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

Arata Isozaki’s perception of architecture surpasses the realm of visual stimuli. “My concept of architecture is that it is invisible,” he says, “it’s intangible, but I believe it can be felt through the five senses.” Residing today at a modest sea-facing apartment at Naha in the Okinawa prefecture, he remains professionally active, contributing to the field through his practice as well as his writings. His unbuilt but avant-garde concept of urban design called City in the Air, which he developed as part of his post world-war musings based on a hybrid of architectural styles of ‘Metabolism’ and ‘Modernism’, with modular units supported on central cylindrical cores hovered several metres above the ground, occupies his explorations even today. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

As an architect whose body of work is an emphatic articulation of Japan’s global influence, Isozaki’s is a well-feted life. As one who effortlessly bridges dichotomies in several facets of architecture in particular and life in general, he remains a priceless influence on many generations. To quote the jury citation, it says ‘Clearly, he is one of the most influential figures in contemporary world architecture on a constant search, not afraid to change and try new ideas. His architecture rests on profound understanding, not only of architecture but also of philosophy, history, theory, and culture.’ Congratulations, Mr. Isozaki, and thank you for your immeasurable contributions to our physical world – contributions past and ones yet in the making even today, perhaps the reason why the Pritzker waited so long to decorate you!

© Courtesy of internet resources

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