Sponsored by The Hyatt Foundation

Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Fumihiko Maki

First, I would like to express my many thanks to Mr. Jay Pritzker, the members of The Hyatt Foundation, and the jury members of the Award Committee, without whose support I would not have been here in the first place. I am truly grateful for the honor that you are bestowing on me tonight, which seems to validate and encourage the kind of interests and endeavors I have been pursuing over nearly 40 years of work in architecture. I am also acutely aware that there are many other deserving candidates for this prize, and therefore it truly came as a surprise to be picked from among such esteemed peers and colleagues. In receiving this award, I want to acknowledge the mutual support and shared ideals amongst this expanding group of friends, whose collaboration, criticism, and camaraderie have made my work in architecture so personally rewarding.

I want to extend my deepest appreciation to all of you—friends, family, peers and supporters—who have come to Prague Castle to share with me in the award celebration this evening, and in particular I want to say how honored I am that President Havel has taken time out from his busy schedule to be here with us.

The opportunity to hold this ceremony in the city that to me is most beloved in Europe is really quite a moving experience. And as I think about the fact that we are here gathered from various parts of the world, representing so many different cities, I am moved to say something about cities and their role in inspiring not only architecture, but life and culture in general. In retrospect, my whole life, both privately and professionally, has been and still is continuously interwoven with of the lives of various cities, each with its own lessons or messages. In my acceptance speech tonight I would like to talk briefly on three cities that have made profound impact on my thinking about architecture. In other words, this is a "tale of three cities."

The first city I would like to speak of is Tokyo where I was born and raised, and where I still live with my family and practice architecture today. In the early 30s, the time of my childhood years, Tokyo had much of the ambience and the physical appearance that it had inherited from the previous century. In the Yamanote, or "upper town", where I lived, streets were often shadowed by big trees and were dark in evenings. Small streets and narrow alleys were unpaved. After it rained, the smell of the earth and vegetation permeated the air. Those streets where today we find heavy vehicular traffic in those days were for people strolling and bicycling. In the summer, the people came out of their houses and stores to get a bit of the cool air and watched children playing with fireworks, whose sound could be heard even from quite a distance away. These scenes were still reminiscent of the city that nearly two-hundred years earlier had already become the biggest metropolis in the world and was also at that time arguably the world's greatest garden city.

The buildings of Tokyo in the 30s were mostly low in scale and subdued in color and texture. Most residential houses had clay-tile roofs and wooden finishes on the walls, sometimes cemented over on the street front. Public buildings, banks and some important commercial structures such as department stores were styled according to Western Neo-Classicism.

The same 30s did, however, witness the emergence of the first modern architecture here and there. I still remember vividly those occasions when I visited with my parents their friend's houses and small exhibition places and tea parlors in public parks. Their very articulated cubic forms, whiteness, floating interior spaces and thin metal railings were my first introduction to modern architecture, and they made a strong impression on me, although I'd never thought to become an architect at that time. Later, these fantastic visual images had begun gradually to overlap with images of boats and airplanes, the very symbols of modernity for children like myself at that time.

Much has been changed since then. Today the city of Tokyo may be called the world's largest assemblage of industrially produced artifacts (in materials such as metal, glass, concrete, etc.). Having witnessed personally this transformation from a garden city to an industrialized city within the span of a mere fifty years, Tokyo presents for me a rich mental landscape at an almost surrealistic level.

Tokyo, because of its capacity to meet all kinds of external demands and pressures for change, is continuously a seductive and exciting place for the creation of something new. The city simply excites the minds of architects and artists. At the same time, however, Tokyo stands as a sober reminder of what one would not do and should not. So many changes have been enacted in the name of progress but at the expense of the city's rich cultural legacy. Tokyo, in this respect, continues to serve me as example and teacher for the navigation of a future course.

Next, I would like to move on to my second city, Chicago. Following my graduation from the University of Tokyo in the early 50s, I decided to pursue further graduate study in the U.S. Although I have never lived in Chicago, throughout those years I spent in the United States, the city always symbolized for me a city of architectural dreams. No city possessed a richer collection of what one might call the genuine heritage of American architecture. The great works of Richardson, Sullivan, Burnham and Root, and Wright offer a rich panoramic view of American Modernism of that period. Even to the eyes of a foreigner like myself, the sturdy, masculine facades of Chicago architecture instantly seemed a mirror of the fierce, proud individualism that is deeply rooted in American tradition ...

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