Toyo Ito

Architect (1941)

The Japanese architect Toyo Ito’s career follows a path whose logic resides in his research on spatial fluidity and lightness, logic which has been continuously enhanced since the early 1970s, notably by the utilization of new technologies and by working with engineers. His earliest commissions were essentially individual houses (Aluminum House, 1971). With the Tower of Winds in Yokohama (1986), Ito attempted to assimilate natural phenomena into his architecture. Thereafter, his approach to the disorder of the mutating Japanese city became the framework underpinning his thinking, now focused on architecture in a direct rapport with the urban environment and the lifestyles of its inhabitants (Restaurant Nomad, 1986; Pao, A Dwelling for Tokyo Nomad Women, 1985). His thinking reached a turning point with the Mediatheque at Sendai (2001). The extreme lightness of its structure clearly expresses the architect’s intention to eliminate the buildings weight by turning it into a permeable membrane. Toyo Ito has increasingly used visual metaphors inspired by the world of plants, such as the serial pattern of the tree for the Tod’s Omotesando store in Tokyo (2004), a demonstration of his remarkable technical prowess with glass and concrete. He pays as much attention to physical phenomena and to organic forms as to his search for total continuity in the built world, which has led the architect to perforate and thin the materials used (Pavilion of Bruges, 2002; Mikimoto, 2005; Meiso no Mori, 2006) as well as to focus intense attention on the quality of the detailing. Toyo Ito’s questioning of the significance of details enables him to give spaces their own specific atmosphere, one that allows the flow of air and light and that encourages pleasure in wandering.

Born in Seoul in 1941 and a graduate in architecture from the University of Tokyo in 1965, Toyo Ito began by working with the Kiyonari Kikutake firm. In 1971, he founded his own firm, URBOT (contraction of “Urban Robot”). His first commissions direct him towards individual houses, like the Aluminum House in Kanagawa (1971) or the White U in Tokyo (1976). In 1979, he renamed his firm “Toyo Ito and Associates,” and in 1984, he designed and built his own house, Silver Hut, which inaugurated the theme of the temporary shelter that appears again in Pao: A Dwelling for Tokyo Nomad Women (1985). The Municipal Museum of Yatsushiro (1991) was his first public commission, to be followed by many more, among which the famous Mediatheque of Sendai (2001). The creation of the Japanese Pavilion for the Hanover World Fair in 2000 initiated the development of an important career abroad, for example, the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2002, or the Opera House of Taichun in Taiwan. In France, Toyo Ito delivered the Cognacq-Jay Hospital in 2006, in Paris. In 2009, he designed the Kaohsiung stadium in Taiwan. In 2013 he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in recognition of his entire career.

Nadine Labedade

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