Toyo Ito Wins 2013 Pritzker Prize

March 2013

The 2013 Pritzker Prize has been awarded to Japanese architect Toyo Ito. Based in Tokyo, Ito had previously been awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in 2006 and the Praemium Imperiale by the Japan Art Association in 2010, while his Japanese Pavilion was awarded best pavilion at last year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.

His works include the TOD’S Omotesando Building in Tokyo, Sendai Mediatheque, Tama Art University Library in Tokyo and Za-Koenji Public Theatre in Tokyo.

He calls the Sendai Mediatheque, completed in 2001 in Sendai City, Miyagi, Japan, one of the high points of his career. In the Phaidon book, Toyo Ito, he explains, “The Mediatheque differs from conventional public buildings in many ways. While the building principally functions as a library and art gallery, the administration has actively worked to relax divisions between diverse programs, removing fixed barriers between various media to progressively evoke an image of how cultural facilities should be from now on.”

Another of Ito’s projects commented on by the jury is the TOD’S Omotesando building in Tokyo, “where the building skin also serves as structure,” to quote the jury citation, and further, “Innovative is a word often used to describe Toyo Ito’s works.” Citing the Municipal Funeral Hall in Gifu Prefecture, Tokyo’s Tama Art University Library, and London’s 2002 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, the jury calls attention to some “of his many inspiring spaces.”

Toyo Ito made this comment in reaction to winning the prize: “Architecture is bound by various social constraints. I have been designing architecture bearing in mind that it would be possible to realize more comfortable spaces if we are freed from all the restrictions even for a little bit. However, when one building is completed, I become painfully aware of my own inadequacy, and it turns into energy to challenge the next project. Probably this process must keep repeating itself in the future. “Therefore, I will never fix my architectural style and never be satisfied with my works,” he concluded.

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The laureates receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.

The 71 year old architect will be honored at a formal ceremony to be held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts on Wednesday, May 29.