On December 29, 2022, renowned Japanese architect Arata Isozaki died at his home on Japan's southern island Okinawa. He was 91.
Born in Oita on July 23, 1931, Isozaki was one of the most influential architects in Japan and one of the most well-known architects of the panorama of contemporary architecture.
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.
Isozaki won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, internationally the highest honour in the field, in 2019. He was known as a post-modern giant who blended the culture and history of the East and the West in his designs.
Check these 8 facts that shaped the work of Arata Isozaki.
1. Isozaki worked under Kenzo Tange before establishing his own firm in 1963.
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.
2. The Second World War had an important influence on his early vision of architecture.
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.”
3. Isozaki was a member of the first generation of juries of the Pritzker Prize
He was appointed to the first Pritzker Prize Jury in 1979, and continued on as a member for five additional years.
Photo: © GianAngelo Pistoia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:GianAngelo_Pistoia
4. Isozaki included in his work the concept of 'Ma'
The concept of ma, or space‐time, is a commonplace in Japanese culture, but its role as the informing element of all architecture and design, with an influence on all phases of life, is quite alien to the Western mind. For the Japanese, space is measured by intervals, or distances, by the dimensions around its edges rather than by the void inside. Space starts as the distance between two points before it becomes, for example, a room, or a house, or anything else.
5. He designed a robot
Arata Isozaki designed a 'Demonstration Robot' for the 1970 Osaka Expo, housed under Kenzo Tange's Festival Plaza space frame.
The two heads of the robot worked as control rooms, one of them receiving external data and sending it to the next one, which sent instructions to emit smoke, smells, light, and sounds. The robot's body would rise and its base would then become a performance stage.
6. In 2005, Arata Isozaki founded the Italian branch of his office, Arata Isozaki & Andrea Maffei Associates.
Arata Isozaki (Oita, 1931) and Andrea Maffei (Modena, 1968) first met in 1997 when Maffei moved from Florence to Tokyo to work with the Japanese master.
Arata Isozaki & Andrea Maffei Associati was founded in Milan in 2005 as a laboratory for architecture that would rethink and redesign urban neighbourhoods in the most important Italian cities.
7. Isozaki has built more than 100 architectural projects in 6 decades
Together with the firm he built more than 6 decades ago, Isozaki has produced the work of more than 100 buildings erected in Asia, Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia. Most of Isozaki's works not only emphasize his aesthetics, but are also solutive and specific to the political, social, and cultural context of the client concerned.
8. His works also include philosophy, visual art, film and theater.
Isozaki's work was always interdisciplinary: in addition to architecture and urban design, he worked on the design of graphics, fashions, furniture and set design as well as writer and collaborator with artists.
Arata Isozaki; Domus: La Casa del Hombre, photo courtesy of Hisao Suzuki
Cover photo: Courtesy of © citylife.it