Arata Isozaki has been named the 2019 laureate of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture. Isozaki, who has been practicing architecture since the 1960s, has long been considered an architectural visionary for his transnational and fearlessly futurist approach to design. With well over 100 built works to his name, Isozaki is also incredibly prolific and influential among his contemporaries. Isozaki is the 49th architect and eighth Japanese architect to receive the honor.
Said the jury of Isozaki in the award citation: “…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.”
Born in 1931 in Oita, a town on Japan’s Island of Kyushu, Isozaki’s entré into architecture was profoundly affected by the world events of the time. Isozaki was just 12 years old when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were decimated in World War Two; his own hometown was burned to the ground during the war. “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 on ground zero. It was in complete ruins, and there was no architecture, no buildings and not even a city…So, my first experience of architecture was the void of architecture, and I began to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities.”
Isozaki took this worldview with him to the University of Tokyo, where he graduated from the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering in 1954. He followed this with a Ph.D. at the same faculty before beginning his architectural career in earnest at the office of Kenzo Tange. Isozaki quickly became Tange’s protege, working closely with the 1987 Pritzker Laureate before leaving to establish his own office in 1963.
Japan at the time was in a period of immense change and reinvention. Japan had been released from Allied Occupation only a decade prior, and the country was still reeling from the aftereffects of global war and occupation. “In order to find the most appropriate way to solve these problems, I could not dwell upon a single style,” says Isozaki. “Change became constant. Paradoxically, this came to be my own style.”