Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

'Truly international' architect Arata Isozaki wins prestigious Pritzker Prize

Plus, we profile four other Pritzker architects with connections to the Middle East

Japanese architect Arata Isozaki been awarded the Pritzker for work that found global resonance while mining local traditions. AFP 
Japanese architect Arata Isozaki been awarded the Pritzker for work that found global resonance while mining local traditions. AFP 

Arata Isozaki is renowned for his awareness of, and ability to, design structures that are both global and local. From the Allianz Tower skyscraper in Milan and Museum of Contemporary Art in California, to the many libraries, cultural centres and sports halls he's designed across the world, Isozaki's projects are at once versatile, functional and stylish.

It is this reputation as a "truly international architect" that culminated in the 87-year-old winning the prestigious Pritzker Prize - akin to the Nobel Prize in the field of design - on March 5.

The Japanese architect was 14 when Hiroshima was bombed, and grew up across the shore on the island of Kyushu, which was razed to the ground in the aftermath. Isozaki has said that it was this void of architecture that led him to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities.

In the seven decades that followed, Isozaki breathed life into his reflections and is now regarded as Japan's most influential postwar architect and city planner.

This undated photo released by The Pritzker Architecture Prize, shows Ceramic Park Mino in Tajimi, Gifu, western Japan, which was designed by architect Arata Isozaki. Isozaki, credited with bringing together the East and West in his innovative designs, has been awarded this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize, known internationally as the highest honor in the field. The 2019 prize was announced Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Hisao Suzuki/The Pritzker Architecture Prize via AP)
Ceramic Park in, Gifu, Japan, designed by Arata Isozaki. The Pritzker Architecture Prize via AP

The Pritzker jury citation notes: "Possessing a profound knowledge of architectural history and theory, and embracing the avant-garde, he never merely replicated the status quo but challenged it."

The architect is a regular on the panel of judges at the annual World Architecture Festival, including in 2010, when Masdar City and the then-new Abu Dhabi International Airport terminal were shortlisted.

Isozaki's more than 100 built works range from the Palau Saint Jordi, built in Barcelona for the 1992 Summer Olympics, to LA's Museum of Contemporary Art, his first international commission.

In Japan, his most celebrated works include the Kitakyushu municipal museum of art, built in 1974, and the Kamioka town hall from 1978, which reflect the architect's eclecticism: the former is all straight lines and sharp angles, while the latter is liquidly smooth and curvaceous.

The prize will be awarded to him in May at a ceremony in Paris.

Four other Pritzker winners with regional connections

Frenchman Jean Nouvel, the architect behind Louvre Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia's upcoming Al Ula Resort, won the Pritzker in 2008. The UAE art museum's galleries and buildings echo a traditional medina, covered by the massive 180-metre-wide dome that filters light to create a micro-climate; the design was inspired by mashrabiya carved window screens and the shadows cast by fronds of date palms at Al Ain oasis.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is now open on Saadiyat Island. Christopher Pike / The National
Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island. Christopher Pike for The National

In 2004, British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, known for her gravity-defying curved structures such as China’s Guangzhou Opera House and the London Olympics Aquatics Centre, as well as the Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi, became the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker. She also designed the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre and The Opus in Dubai, and famously said: “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?” Hadid died in 2016, leaving behind an inimitable legacy of work.

November 18, 2010, Abu Dhabi, UAE: A view of Sheikh Zayed bridge days before its opening on "National Day". The bridge has been under construction for many years now. It is safe to say that the city of Abu Dhabi is quite excited for its opening. Lee Hoagland/ The National
Sheikh Zayed bridge days before its opening on National Day 2010. Lee Hoagland for The National

Italian architect Renzo Piano, who won the prize in 1998, will design the glass building that will house Beirut History Museum, due to open in the next five years.

British "starchitect" Norman Foster, the man behind the Zayed National Museum and UAE pavilion at the Milan Expo, as well as The Tulip in London, won the Pritzker in 1999.

ABU DHABI.NOV.23rd. 2008. Sir Norman Foster surveys the Abu Dhabi skyline from the rooftop of his company's offices in Hamdan Street. Stephen Lock / The National . FOR HOUSE AND HOME. *** Local Caption *** SL-foster-003.jpgHH06NO FOSTER COVER.jpg
Norman Foster at his Abu Dhabi office on Hamdan Street, in 2008. Stephen Lock for The National

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Updated: March 6, 2019 12:46 PM

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