Sunday, the Hyatt Foundation announced that Toyo Ito is the 2013 recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, an annual award which recognizes “a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.” I didn’t realize until I had read the full announcement that the first studio opened by Ito was called Urban Robot. We’ve talked about Ito a few times on the blog, but there are some other excellent projects worth mentioning.
First is a retail project that was cited by the jury, and one of the first projects of Ito’s that I came across as an architecture student. It’s the Tod’s store in Omotesando, which you can see in the photos above. The structure of the project is also the skin: a graphic and concrete abstraction of trees that wraps around the exterior of the building that simply looks stunning.
Several of the write-ups about Ito’s selection have mentioned the Sendai Mediatheque, and Ito is quoted in the announcement for the prize, saying that the mediatheque is a high point of his career. What’s innovative about this project is the irregular structural tubes that not only support the stacked floor plates but organize the building’s circulation and bring in light through meandering light wells. It’s also a building that withstood the tremendous forces of the 2011 earthquake in Japan. The New York Times links to a video recorded inside the building during the earthquake. In the video, you can see not just the contents of the room swashing back and forth, but also the ceiling swaying against the white structural tubes that hold the building upright throughout the ordeal. But the mediatheque continues to inspire Ito in ways that extend beyond it’s structural prowess. In an interview with ArchDaily, Ito says “before the Mediatheque project, many of my projects could have not been realized.”