Over the last couple of years, the Pritzker Prize has been awarded to architects renowned for their quietly strong projects in their home countries, yet lacking an international presence (see: Eduardo Souto de Moura in 2011, and Wang Shu in 2012).
On March 17, the Pritzker Prize jury announced the recipient of the 2013 award: Toyo Ito. The Tokyo architect works mostly in Japan but creates dramatic structures that resonate the world over. While the honour might seem belated – “He has repeatedly been passed over… in favor of designers with much thinner résumés,” critic Nicolai Ouroussoff remarked in 2009″ – that only makes it all the more welcome.
After completing his studies at the University of Tokyo in 1965, Ito worked for Kiyonori Kikutake & Associates and then left in 1971 to open his own studio, Urban Robot. Eight years later, the firm became Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects. It consistently eschews the typical approach to modernism and instead creates awe-inspiring, otherworldly structures by experimenting with materials and form.
Ito’s outstanding works include the Meiso no Mori Municipal Funeral Hall with its undulating white roof, the TOD’s flagship in Omotesando, featuring a webbed facade, and the striking iceberg-shaped black volume that is the Za-Koenji Public Theatre. But Ito’s Sendai Mediatheque, a transparent library in Miyagi featuring six lattice steel columns that appear to grow from the building’s base, is perhaps his most acclaimed building. The structure withstood the seismic force of Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake.
The two-time ADI Compasso d’Oro winner also counts a Royal Institute of British Architects’ Gold Medal and a Golden Lion from the Venice Architecture Biennale among his accolades. He becomes the sixth Japanese architect to receive the prize, following Kenzo Tange in 1987, Fumihiko Maki in 1993, Tadao Ando in 1995, and the team of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa in 2010.
The ceremony will be held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, designed by Pritzker Laureate I.M. Pei, in Boston on May 29.