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Arata Isozaki, Designer of MOCA L.A.’s Downtown Campus, Wins 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize

Arata Isozaki.

COURTESY PRITZKER ARCHITECTURE PRIZE

The Pritzker Architecture Prize, the architecture world’s most prestigious award, has this year gone to Arata Isozaki, whose designs have long pondered the relationship between humans and their multifarious environments. The value of the prize is $100,000.

“Possessing a profound knowledge of architectural history and theory, and embracing the avant-garde, he never merely replicated the status quo, but his search for meaningful architecture was reflected in his buildings that to this day, defy stylistic categorizations, are constantly evolving, and always fresh in their approach,” the jury said in a statement.

Many of Isozaki’s designs play on oppositions between inside and outside—they’re sloping and angular, heavy and light. Critics have attributed such characteristics to his interest in East Asian architectural traditions.

Isozaki’s most famous is his design for the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles’s Downtown campus, which was completed in 1986. The museum was Isozaki’s first international commission (he is based in Okinawa, Japan), and it attempted to disturb architectural traditions for museums in America by placing galleries under and around a courtyard facing a red sandstone-clad structure.

Isozaki has also been praised for designing museums in his home country, having overseen the architectural plans of the Museum of Modern Art in Gunma and the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art in Fukuoka. Additionally, he offered designs for the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Art Museum in Beijing; the Hunan Provincial Museum in Changsha, China; and the Domus Museum in A Coruña, Spain, which features a sloping wall on a rocky hill facing the sea. And in 2013, with artist Anish Kapoor, Isozaki designed Ark Nova, an inflatable concert hall.

Isozaki’s work has also been shown widely at art institutions. In 1991 MOCA L.A. surveyed three decades of his output, and in 1993 the Brooklyn Museum in New York did a similar exhibition.

Past winners of the Pritzker have included Renzo Piano, Tadao Ando, Peter Zumthor, and Zaha Hadid. Kevin Roche, one of the prize’s first recipients, died this past weekend.

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