Pritzker-winning Japanese architect Arata Isozaki dies at 91

Mr Arata Isozaki died in his home in Okinawa on Wednesday. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO – Pritzker-winning Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, known for his avant-garde style and category-defying works, has died at the age of 91, his office said on Friday.

Mr Isozaki died of old age at his home in Okinawa on Wednesday, and his funeral will be attended only by his close family, the office said in an e-mail statement to AFP.

Mr Isozaki was seen as a post-modern giant who combined influences from Asian and Western culture and history in his designs, at a time when American and European styles dominated global architecture.

A protege of the legendary Kenzo Tange, the first Japanese architect to win the Pritzker Prize, Mr Isozaki’s best-known works include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, as well as the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, which was designed for the 1992 Summer Olympics.

He was also behind the Team Disney Building, the administrative headquarters for the Walt Disney Company in Florida, among other iconic structures.

Born in Oita, south-western Japan, in 1931, Mr Isozaki was also an influential author and a social critic.

He was 14 when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945, and the post-war ruins of Japan stayed with him.

“I grew up near ground zero. It was in complete ruins, and there was no architecture, no buildings and not even a city,” he said.

“So, my first experience of architecture was the void of architecture, and I began to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities.”

In awarding him the 2019 award, the Pritzker committee praised the blend of influences seen in his work.

“Isozaki was one of the first Japanese architects to build outside of Japan during a time when Western civilisations traditionally influenced the East,” said Mr Tom Pritzker, chairman of Hyatt Foundation, the award’s sponsor.

Mr Isozaki’s work “was distinctively influenced by his global citizenry – truly international”, he added.

The jury described Mr Isozaki’s architecture as work that “never merely replicated the status quo”.

“His search for meaningful architecture was reflected in his buildings that, to this day, defy stylistic categorisations.” AFP

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