4 stand-out designs from architect & Pritzker Prize winner Arata Isozaki

Influenced by the events of Hiroshima, Isozaki's global vision has earned him architecture's highest prize

07 April 2019 - 00:00 By Mila Crewe-Brown

The 2019 Pritzker Prize, arguably architecture's Nobel, was recently awarded to Japanese architect and theorist Arato Isozaki, a multidisciplinary creative whose buildings number more than 100 and span the globe.
As a young boy growing up on the island of Kyushu, Japan, Isozaki witnessed the bombing of Hiroshima as well as the devastating burning of his hometown. It was this destruction of buildings and infrastructure that Isozaki attributes to the birth of his architectural curiosity.
When Isozaki began working in  the West, he was one of the only Eastern architects to do so, flipping the common East-West barriers and leaving the mark of the East in the West. Isozaki's work has been placed in a league of its own and is lauded as having made a lasting impact on the world.
Constantly challenging convention, the only label we can attribute to his ouvre is fierce originality.
Isozaki, 87, believes that although buildings are transitory in the grand scheme, they ought to "please the senses" of their users. His philosophy is that true luxury in architecture comes down to "nothingness" and voids in space and time. Unsurprisingly, Isozaki is celebrated for his commitment to the Japanese concept of "Ma", in-between space that he believes is a living thing which needs to flow.
"He never merely replicated the status quo," wrote the 2019 Pritzker Prize jury, "but his search for meaningful architecture was reflected in his buildings that to this day defy stylistic categorizations, are constantly evolving and are always fresh in their approach."
The following are some of our favourite buildings by Isozaki.
1. OITA PREFECTURAL LIBRARY (now Oita Art Plaza), 1966One of his earliest works, the Oita Prefectural Library was part of a larger plan that emphasised "growing architecture" - buildings that  are designed for evolution. This notion is in keeping with Japan's Metabolist movement, where buildings were designed with movable parts along a spine, not unlike a human body, in order to remain fluid rather than static. The library has also been praised as a masterpiece of Japanese Brutalism.
This art complex, comprising a theatre, performance hall and contemporary art gallery, is symbolised by the iconic 100m tetrahelix tower inspired by Constantin Brancusi's Infinite Column and the notion of a tower that is infinitely extendable. Made up of 56 triangular steel panels, the tower is elegant, sculptural and seems to imply boundless growth for Mito municipality, whose centenary was the reason for the commission.

With its colossal barrel vaults that run alongside one another before curving away, the Kitakyushu Central Library was inspired by Étienne-Louis Boullée's proposed design for the French National Library in 1785. Here, Isozaki replaced Boullée's neoclassical vaulted ceilings with precast concrete, lending the building a machine-like quality that possesses life-like movement.
4. ARK NOVA, 2013A modern expression of Isozaki's more humanitarian work, Ark Nova was commissioned by the Lucerne Festival and designed by Anish Kapoor and Isozaki in response to Japan's devastating tsunami in 2011. The PVC-coated polyester membrane of this bubble-like mobile "hall" inflates and deflates, allowing the arena to be transported - originally to areas affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Accommodating audiences of up to 500, Ark Nova has become a symbol of the spirit of rebuilding...

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