At 87, Arata Isozaki is now a little on the retiring side: the winner of the 2019 Pritzker Prize, the highest distinction in the world of architecture, no longer gives interviews, but his buildings are there for all to see. In his 60-year career he has realized around 100 projects in his homeland (such the 1990 Art Tower Mito cultural centre, symbolized by its twisting titanium tower), but also buildings in the U.S. (for example the 1986 Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum and the colourful Postmodern 1991 Walt Disney World Resort headquarters in Florida), in China (the 2008 Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum in Beijing and the very sculptural 2012 Shanghai Himalayas Museum), in Spain (the 1990 Olympic Games complex in Barcelona and the 1995 Domus Museum of Mankind perched above the sea in A Coruña), in Italy, where he has an office (the 2011 Maranello Library and the 2014 Allianz Tower in Milan, which reinvented skyscraper architecture) as well as in Qatar (the 2011 National Convention Centre in Doha with its spectacular columns in the form of roots). But in France, we haven’t been so lucky, which is perhaps why he’s less well known here than the seven of his compatriots who have previously won the prize (among them Shigeru Ban, in 2014). With a whopping eight of its architects having been awarded the Pritzker, Japan is the country that has carried off the prize most often, alongside the U.S., depending on exactly how you choose to count the number of winners.
“I couldn’t stop at just one style.
The only constant in my work has been change.
Paradoxically, it’s become my own style.”
To see Isozaki’s architecture, you’ll therefore have to travel, and in doing so will discover the oeuvre of a man who always refused to practice one single style, instead merging references, genres and cultures. “I couldn’t stop at just one style. The only constant in my work has been change. Paradoxically, it’s become my own style.” As a result, he’s impossible to categorize, one of those architects for whom form, as a preconceived idea, doesn’t count. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t think about or work on form, but it is dictated primarily by what has already been planned. “It’s often from studying the function, history and site where a building is to be constructed that a concept is born,” explains Andrea Maffei, an Italian architect with whom Arata Isozaki & Associates built an office complex in Milan in 2005.