Isozaki, born in 1931, was deeply influenced by the aftermath of World War II and the destruction of his hometown of Ōita, after which he became fascinated by the temporal nature of the built environment.
“When I was old enough to begin an understanding of the world,” writes Isozaki, “my hometown was burned down. Across the shore, the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, so I grew up on 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.”
After founding his own practice in the 1960s, Isozaki left Japan to cultivate a broader knowledge of world architecture. In his sixty years of practice, Isozaki has continued to build in a manner known more for its programmatic solutions and contextual nature than solid adherence to a single style or typology. From the Ōita Prefectural Library built in 1966, a stalwart example of Japanese Brutalism, to the 1986 Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Isozaki has never shied away from tailoring his approach to specific projects. Following the reconstruction period after World War II, Isozaki made his name as one of the few Japanese architects to build abroad beginning in the 1980s and in doing so, exported a truly international style to the West.
“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,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Jury Chair in a statement. “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’s citation notes Isozaki’s importance in facilitating a global dialogue on design.
“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.”
Isozaki is the eighth Japanese architect to be awarded the prize. The 2019 awards ceremony will be held sometime in May at the Château de Versailles, which will be followed by a lecture in Paris.