2019 Laureate Arata Isozaki (1931-2022) was born in Ōita, Island of Kyushu, Japan prior to the onset of World War II. He was 14 years old when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, and builds with the theory that while buildings are transitory, they should please the senses of the users presently passing through and around them. “When I was old enough to begin an understanding of the world, my hometown was burned down. Across the shore, the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, so I grew up near ground zero. It was in complete ruins, and there was no architecture, no buildings and not even a city. Only barracks and shelters surrounded me. So, my first experience of architecture was the void of architecture, and I began to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities.”

Isozaki (right) 4 years
Isozaki (right) 4 years

Isozaki graduated from the Department of Architecture in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tokyo in 1954, and began his career with an apprenticeship under the guidance of 1987 Pritzker Prize Laureate Kenzo Tange. He established Arata Isozaki & Associates in 1963, after the Allied occupation when Japan had regained its sovereignty and was seeking physical rebuilding amidst political, economic and cultural uncertainty from the decimation of WWII. “In order to find the most appropriate way to solve these problems, I could not dwell upon a single style. Change became constant. Paradoxically, this came to be my own style.” His work began locally, with many buildings in his hometown and Fukuoka, and quickly expanded to Gunma, Osaka and Tokyo. Significant works in his early career include the Ōita Prefectural Library (1962-1966 Ōita, Japan), Expo ’70 Festival Plaza (1966-1970 Osaka, Japan), The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma (1971-1974 Gunma, Japan), and Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Fukuoka (1972-1974 Fukuoka, Japan).

Isozaki and Jasper Johns (photo courtesy of Shigeo Anzai)
Isozaki and Jasper Johns (photo courtesy of Shigeo Anzai)

Isozaki demonstrated a worldwide vision that was ahead of his time and facilitated a dialogue between East and West. He emerged as an international leader in architecture in the 1980s, with his first overseas commission, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1981-1986 California, USA). Other prominent international works, of his more than one hundred total built projects include: Palau Sant Jordi (1983-1990 Barcelona, Spain), designed for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games; Team Disney Building (1987-1990, Florida, USA); Shenzhen Cultural Center (1998-2007 Shenzhen, China); Pala Alpitour (2002-2005 Turin, Italy), ice hockey stadium for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games; Central Academy of Fine Arts, Art Museum (2003-2008 Beijing, China); Allianz Tower (2003-2014 Milan, Italy); Qatar National Convention Center, (2004-2011 Doha, Qatar); Shanghai Symphony Hall (2008-2014 Shanghai, China); and Hunan Provincial Museum (2011-2017 Changsha, China).

Opera de Lyon
Opera de Lyon

In the 1960s, Isozaki envisioned City in the Air (1962 Tokyo, Japan), a futuristic plan for Shinjuku consisting of elevated layers of buildings, residences and transportation suspended above the aging city below, in response to the rapid rate of urbanization. Although it was unrealized, Isozaki went on to plan cities in accelerating economies, with his most recent developments in China and the Middle East. Through his critical writings, and as a jury member for important architecture competitions, he has played a significant role in bringing to realization the concepts of young architects around the world. Six decades of his work include philosophy, visual art, design, music, films, and plays, alongside his iconic buildings.

He was the recipient of the Annual Prize, Architectural Institute of Japan, for the Ōita Prefectural Library and The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma (1967 and 1975 respectively, Japan), L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1997 Officier, France), RIBA Gold Medal for architecture (1986 United Kingdom), Leone d’Oro, Venice Architectural Biennale, as commissioner of Japanese Pavilion (1996 Italy), Gran Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Civil (1997 Spain), Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (2007 Italy), and The Lorenzo il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award, Florence Biennale (2017). He was an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Arts (1994) and the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1998), and a member of the Japan Arts Academy (2017). He was appointed to the first Pritzker Prize Jury in 1979, and continued on as a member for five additional years.

Allianz Tower (photo courtesy of Allesandra Chemollo)
Allianz Tower (photo courtesy of Alessandra Chemollo)

Solo exhibitions featuring the work of Isozaki have included Arata Isozaki: Architecture 1960-1990 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (California, USA) and Tokyo Station Gallery (Tokyo, Japan); Arata Isozaki: Works in Architecture at the Brooklyn Museum (New York, USA), Galleria D’ Arte Moderna, Comune di Bologna (Bologna, Italy), The Netherlands Architecture Institute (Rotterdam, The Netherlands), The National British Architecture Institute (London, United Kingdom), Miro Museum (Barcelona, Spain) and Moni Lazariston (Thessaloniki, Greece); Arata Isozaki – Electric Labyrinth at Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (Torino, Italy) and Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (Porto, Portugal); and Arata Isozaki UNBUILT at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing, China), Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre (Shanghai, China) and Guangdong Museum of Art (Guangzhou, China).

Isozaki served as a visiting professor at several U.S. universities including: Columbia University, New York (New York, USA); Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA) and Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut, USA). He is based in Okinawa with offices operating in Japan, China, Italy and Spain.

Arata Isozaki Receives the 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize

He surpasses the framework of architecture to raise questions that transcend eras and borders.

Chicago, IL (March 5, 2019) – Arata Isozaki, distinguished Japanese architect, city planner and theorist, has been selected as the 2019 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the award that is known internationally as architecture’s highest honor.

Ōita Prefectural Library, photo courtesy of Yasuhiro Ishimoto
Ōita Prefectural Library, photo courtesy of Yasuhiro Ishimoto

Lauded as a visionary amongst his international contemporaries, Isozaki’s forward-thinking approach, deep commitment to the “art of space,” and transnational methodology have been evidenced since the 1960s. The prolific architect has been credited with facilitating dialogue between East and West, reinterpreting global influences within architecture, and supporting the development of younger generations in the field. His precision and dexterity are demonstrated through his mastery of an intercontinental range of building techniques, interpretation of site and context, and intentionality of details.

The 2019 Jury Citation states, in part, “Possessing a profound knowledge of architectural history and theory, and embracing the avant-garde, he never merely replicated the status quo, but his search for meaningful architecture was reflected in his buildings that to this day, defy stylistic categorizations, are constantly evolving, and always fresh in their approach.”

Isozaki’s early successes in architecture transpired during the era following the Allied occupation of Japan, when the country sought to rebuild itself after the ruins of the Second World War. “I wanted to see the world through my own eyes, so I traveled around the globe at least ten times before I turned thirty. I wanted to feel the life of people in different places and visited extensively inside Japan, but also to the Islamic world, villages in the deep mountains of China, South East Asia, and metropolitan cities in the U.S. I was trying to find any opportunities to do so, and through this, I kept questioning, ‘what is architecture?’,” recalls the Laureate.

Not only did he extend efforts to physically reconstruct his native hometown with buildings including Ōita Medical Hall (1959-60) and Annex (1970-1972 Ōita, Japan), and the Ōita Prefectural Library (1962-1966 Ōita, Japan, renamed Ōita Art Plaza in 1996), but also redefined mutual exchange between eastern and western societies, allowing Japanese vision to inform European and American design, particularly in the 1980s.

Palau Sant Jordi, photo courtesy of Hisao Suzuki
Palau Sant Jordi, photo courtesy of Hisao Suzuki


MOCA Los Angeles, photo courtesy of Yasuhiro Ishimoto
MOCA Los Angeles, photo courtesy of Yasuhiro Ishimoto

“Isozaki was one of the first Japanese architects to build outside of Japan during a time when western civilizations traditionally influenced the East, making his architecture—which was distinctively influenced by his global citizenry—truly international,” comments Tom Pritzker, Chairman of Hyatt Foundation. “In a global world, architecture needs that communication.”

His buildings appear geometrically simple, but are infused with theory and purpose. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1981-1986 Los Angeles, United States) was the architect’s first international commission. Though controversial and geographically challenging, the red Indian sandstone building was resolved by Isozaki’s eloquent awareness of scale through an assemblage of volumes, while employing the golden ratio and yin yang theory throughout, evoking the complementary nature of western and eastern relationships.

Isozaki’s avant-garde approach is fluid, adjusting in response to the needs and influences of each environment through a concept of interrelated time and form called “ma.” Thoughtful connectivity between global universality and local identity is made apparent through his comprehensive cross-cultural and interdisciplinary solutions that reflect deep sensitivity to specific contextual, environmental and societal needs. Ceramic Park Mino (1996-2002 Gifu, Japan), a ceramics museum situated in a cascading valley, preserves surrounding vegetation while serving as an extension of the topography through outdoor terraces, observation decks and overlooks, detailed with regional stoneware bricks and ceramic. Palau Sant Jordi (1983-1990 Barcelona, Spain), designed for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, is positioned partially below ground to minimize the profile of the 17,000-person facility and instead highlight the surrounding Montjuïc hillside. The domed roof was built referencing Catalan vault techniques, while the sloped forms were inspired by those of Buddhist temples, and local materials including brick, tile, zinc and travertine were used as finishes.

“Isozaki is a pioneer in understanding that the need for architecture is both global and local—that those two forces are part of a single challenge,” says Justice Stephen Breyer, Jury Chair. “For many years, he has been trying to make certain that areas of the world that have long traditions in architecture are not limited to that tradition, but help spread those traditions while simultaneously learning from the rest of the world.”

The Jury also notes the Laureate’s spirit of generosity, as he has, and continues, to promote architects at the onsets of their careers who have since gone on to become distinguished figures within the discipline.

Isozaki’s work has thus far surpassed six decades and over one hundred built works throughout Asia, Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia. Other prominent works include the Kitakyushu City Museum of Art (1972-1974 Fukuoka, Japan), Tsukuba Center Building, (1979-1983 Ibaraki, Japan), Art Tower Mito (1986-1990 Ibaraki, Japan), Nara Centennial Hall (1992-1998 Nara, Japan), Pala Alpitour (2002-2006 Torino, Italy), Himalayas Center (2003-2013 Shanghai, China), Allianz Tower (2003-2014 Milan, Italy), Qatar National Convention Center (2004-2011 Doha, Qatar), and Shanghai Symphony Hall (2008-2014 Shanghai, China).

Isozaki is the 46th Laureate of the Pritzker Prize, and the eighth to hail from Japan. The 2019 Pritzker Prize ceremony will take place in France this May, accompanied by a public lecture in Paris.

Arata Isozaki, born in Ōita, Island of Kyushu, Japan is known as a versatile, influential, and truly international architect. Setting up his own practice in the 1960s Isozaki became the first Japanese architect to forge a deep and long-lasting relationship between East and West. Possessing a profound knowledge of architectural history and theory, and embracing the avant-garde, he never merely replicated the status quo but challenged it. And in his search for meaningful architecture, he created buildings of great quality that to this day defy categorizations, reflect his constant evolution, and are always fresh in their approach. 

Over the more than 50 years Arata Isozaki has been practicing, he has had an impact on world architecture, through his works, writings, exhibitions, the organization of important conferences and participation on competition juries. He has supported many young architects from across the globe to have a chance to realize their potential. In such endeavors as the Fukuoka Nexus World Housing project (1988-1991) or Toyama Prefecture’s Machi-no-Kao (“face of the city”) program (1991-1999) he invited young international architects to develop catalytic projects in Japan.

MOMA Gunma, photo courtesy of Yasuhiro Ishimoto
MOMA Gunma, photo courtesy of Yasuhiro Ishimoto

Isozaki’s oeuvre has been described as heterogeneous and encompasses descriptions from vernacular to high tech. What is patently clear is that he has not been following trends but forging his own path. An early exploration of a new vision for the city is seen in the project City in the Air, from the early 1960s, for a multilayered city which hovers over the traditional city. His first works in his home country of Japan include a masterpiece of Japanese Brutalism, the Ōita Prefectural Library (1966). Such projects as the Kitakyushu Central Library (1974) and the Gunma Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, opened in 1974, reveal an exploration of a more personal architecture. In the museum, the clear geometry of the cube reflects his fascination with void and grid as it seeks to attain an equilibrium in which to display changing works of art.

Qatar National Convention Center, photo courtesy of Hisao Suzuki
Qatar National Convention Center, photo courtesy of Hisao Suzuki


LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA, photo courtesy of Iwan Baan
LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA, photo courtesy of Iwan Baan

Arata Isozaki’s reach and repertoire have expanded over the years to include projects of many scales and typologies and in numerous countries. In the United States, Isozaki is probably most well-known for undertaking the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1986) and the Team Disney building in Florida (1991). The first is a study of the vault or what he calls “rhetoric of the cylinder” and the second is evidenced by a more playful use of shapes with a postmodern flair.

Many know his work through such significant buildings as the Sant Jordi Stadium for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He has undertaken exemplary works in China such as the CAFA (China Central Academy of Fine Arts) Art Museum in Beijing opened in 2008 or the Shenzhen Cultural Center (2007) in Shenzhen, Guangdong.

Isozaki has shown extraordinary dynamism in recent years with such works as Qatar Convention Center (2011), the traveling inflatable Ark Nova (2013) designed with Anish Kapoor for regions in Japan affected by the 2011 tsunami, and the powerful yet elegant Allianz Tower in Milan, opened in 2018. Once again, it is a testimony to his ability to understand the context in all its complexity and to create a remarkable, well-crafted and inspiring building that is successful from city scale to the interior spaces.

Clearly, he is one of the most influential figures in contemporary world architecture on a constant search, not afraid to change and try new ideas. His architecture rests on profound understanding, not only of architecture but also of philosophy, history, theory and culture. He has brought together East and West, not through mimicry or as a collage, but through the forging of new paths. He has set an example of generosity as he supports other architects and encourages them in competitions or through collaborative works. For all these reasons, the Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury has selected Arata Isozaki the 2019 Laureate.


Jury Members

Stephen Breyer, Chair

André Aranha Corrêa do Lago

Richard Rogers

Kazuyo Sejima

Benedetta Tagliabue

Ratan N. Tata

Wang Shu

Martha Thorne, Executive Director

Château de Versailles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, served as the capital of France for over 100 years and was the site of the signing of the 1919 treaty which ended the First World War.

Originally a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII in 1624, the Château de Versailles expanded with new buildings added by Louis XIV who declared it as the official royal residence in 1682, and it remained so until the start of the French Revolution in 1789. Two of the first architects who expanded the plan were Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the latter of whom added the north and south wings, chapel, court residence and the Hall of Mirrors throughout the 17th century. Charles Le Brun supervised the decoration, and the landscaping was planned by Le Notre, who also designed the Tuileries Gardens. Louis XV later commissioned Jacques Gabriel to design the opera house.

Presently, the Chateau de Versailles spans over 800 hectares, and includes the Places of Trianon, a museum created by Louise-Philippe that houses over 60,000 works to illustrate five centuries of French History, the Royal Opera of Versailles and the expansive garden.

In 1995, architect Tadao Ando was honored with the Pritzker Architecture Prize in the Petit Trianon, a small chateau on the grounds of the Palace.


Read President Emmanuel Macron's pre-ceremony speech, held in honor of the 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize, at the Élysée Palace in Paris, France.

Photo by
Château de Versailles, ©EPV-A Roucher

Emmanuel Macron


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