Toyo Ito Of Japan Is The 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

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Yatsushiro Municipal Museum, Yatsushiro-shi, Kumamoto, Japan, 1988-91. (Photo by Tomio Ohashi.)
Yatsushiro Municipal Museum, Yatsushiro-shi, Kumamoto, Japan, 1988-91. (Photo by Tomio Ohashi.)

Toyo Ito, a 71 year old architect whose practice is based in Tokyo, Japan, will be the recipient of the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize, it was announced by Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation which sponsors the prize. Ito is the sixth Japanese architect to become a Pritzker Laureate—the first five being the late Kenzo Tange in 1987, Fumihiko Maki in 1993, Tadao Ando in 1995, and the team of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa in 2010.

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The laureates receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo, spoke from his home in the United Kingdom, quoting from the jury citation that focuses on the reasons for this year’s choice: “Throughout his career, Toyo Ito has been able to produce a body of work that combines conceptual innovation with superbly executed buildings. Creating outstanding architecture for more than 40 years, he has successfully undertaken libraries, houses, parks, theaters, shops, office buildings, and pavilions, each time seeking to extend the possibilities of architecture. A professional of unique talent, he is dedicated to the process of discovery that comes from seeing the opportunities that lie in each commission and each site. ”

Toyo 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 in Tokyo, and named it Urban Robot (Urbot). In 1979, he changed the name to Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects.

Toyo Ito made this comment in reaction to winning the prize: “Architecture is bound by various social constraints. 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. 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 concluded.

One of Ito’s projects commented on by the jury is the TOD’S Omotesando building in Tokyo, “where the building skin also serves as structure,” to quote the jury citation, and further, “Innovative is a word often used to describe Toyo Ito’s works.” Citing the Municipal Funeral Hall in Gifu Prefecture, Tokyo’s Tama Art University Library, and London’s 2002 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, the jury calls attention to some “of his many inspiring spaces.”

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