As one of the leading architects of Japan’s increasingly highly-regarded architecture culture, 2013 Pritzker Laureate Toyo Ito (born June 1, 1941) has defined his career by combining elements of minimalism with an embrace of technology, in a way that merges both traditional and contemporary elements of Japanese culture.
Born in what is now Seoul when Korea was under Japanese rule, Ito’s family moved to Japan itself when he was just two years old; he would eventually attend the University of Tokyo, where his prize-winning undergraduate thesis secured him a place in the office of Kiyonori Kikutake, a founder of Metabolism and one of the leading Japanese architects at the time.
Toyo Ito founded his own practice, then known as Urban Robot or “Urbot” in 1971, changing its name to Toyo Ito & Associates in 1979. In the early years of his practice, many of his most recognized projects were private homes, including the home he designed for his sister, White U, and his own home the Silver Hut. Speaking about his work in the 1980s, he once said that he “was seeking to erase conventional meaning from his works through minimalist tactics, developing lightness in architecture that resembles air and wind.”
International recognition began to come in the 1990s, and with it perhaps Ito’s most important commission: designed between 1995 and 2000, and completed in 2001, the Sendai Mediatheque remains one of Ito’s most notable works, with its most recognizable feature the 13 high-tech latticed columns which not only support the building (including in major earthquakes) but also provide clear routes for the many cables required to service the building’s program.
In addition to the 2013 Pritzker Prize, Ito has also received the 2006 Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal and the 2010 22nd Praemium Imperiale.