Arata Isozaki is a man with a measured smile, something that characterizes many Nipponese. His is not a scandalous laugh. We could say that it is the product of a culture and the place where they were born, Oita, in 1931, a Japanese city on the island of Kyushu. A few tough years in which the new Pritzker Prize, which surely will have received the award without fuss, had to face hardships and moments of hardness, extreme by a contest in which his country suffered the unspeakable. Tremendous that his town was not far from the cities marked by horror, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that those painful and shameful images should be stuck in his retina. "When I was mature enough to begin to understand the world, my city was devastated. On the other side of the coast, the atomic bomb had been. Everything was in ruins and there was no architecture, there were no buildings and not even a city. Only galleys and shelters surrounded me. So my first experience of architecture was emptiness, and I began to consider how people could rebuild their houses and their cities, "he said. Faced with the surrounding devastation, facing the absolute nothing Isozaki wove in his head the idea of raising and where a wasteland was seen, the young Arata built.
This is the seventh time that an architect born in Japan rises with the prize, the same, on the other hand, that has been obtained by creators of the United States, even in 2013 and 2014 the award went to those distant lands in the figures of Toyo Ito and Shigeru Ban. It deserves a reflection, and this is the comment of another Pritzker, the Portuguese Siza Vieira, who this year the jury chose to distinguish an architecture "with value and meaning", at the same time with a vision of the future, after a few years in which the sustainable and the socially committed were crowned in this architectural Nobel ceremony. Alejandro Aravena got it in 2016 and the Indian Balkrishna Doshi last year. In front of them, the teacher Isozaki has managed to combine in his works his vast and wide culture and be a man of his time, which has closely followed the career of those who begin in the hard trade of building.
The executive director of the award, Martha Thorne, told Ep yesterday that one of the reasons that have led to reward him is the ability of his work to build bridges with the West in these difficult times. Your bet on that connection is very prominent. He has been one of the first architects in Japan who has really connected with societies in many other countries and that is to be welcomed at a time when he is concerned about both globalization and nationalism. " What else has won the award to Isozaki? Being "a very complete architect, whose work is based on a cultural, historical or philosophical basis. It is not a person who merely makes forms, but exercises a search that responds to a concern beyond the stylistic or formal. And that depth is what the jury has awarded. "
After graduating from the University of Tokyo in 1954, it was teacher Kenzo Tange who tutored him. With him he learned the trade and in 1963 he became independent and opened his studio. The final takeoff came in the excessive in many ways decade of the eighties. His name in those years was printed with block letters, but far from that life of the stars that rewards more form than background, something that our protagonist has fled as a bad omen. "He has always talked about trying to see architecture from the perspective of a person who is going to pass by, how people will perceive those spaces of light, temperature …, a very important issue after seeing in past years moments in which the contemporary architecture did not have so much in mind the service to the people », Thorne added.
The work of the Japanese is as multiple as the places where he has raised a plane. The library in Oita, his birthplace, looks as austere as it is beautiful, simple in form and resounding. One of his first projects where the footprint of Tange and Le Corbusier are visible. Nothing to do with the majestic Allianz tower that has become one of the symbols of Milan. In Spain, he feels very comfortable. Not in vain is one of the architects who has most works in our country, especially in Catalonia. In addition to the Palau Sant Jordi, they are two towers, not at all like the Milanese, located behind the bridge of Calatrava in Bilbao, symbols also of a city of the future. Although if there is a work in Spain that does not appear to any other and bears his signature is in La Coruña where the Domus rises majestically, swayed by the wind. They say that they took him to the city to convince him that it must be him and not another who signed the building. There he saw something that is not paid with money, maybe the area, the quarry, Galicia itself, for what else, and accepted. Then I would say it is one of his masterpieces. Moreover, so that nobody would forget it, he signed a beautiful phrase in the golden book of the Casa de las Ciencias: "The future of man can begin here, in A Coruña", visionary words. Harmony, he said, was in that building, the road to it, more specifically.
Like a sponge
In its construction vocabulary, the idea of stagnation does not exist, but the idea of adapting to the place and the context. The teacher lets himself be impregnated by the idea, by the client, absorbs as if it were a sponge, hence, among his varied "offspring" has sneaked to a building that opens with the ears of Mickey and before whose criticism he does not Arredra, because artists as big as the veteran Claes Oldenburg had done it before. He says that he prefers to have ideas in a style that distinguishes him and between his creators of the bedside, those that interest him, are Duchamp and Picabia, go partner.
In his book «Japan-ness in Architecture» he explains that «since the turn of the century it has become increasingly difficult to create architecture with a real constructive force. Japan has shrunk and once again closed its ports, this time due to the recession. The absence of any external cultural pressure that can provoke a certain critical consciousness makes the situation more extreme. Rather it seems that the whole form of the world today makes the notion of a frontier that fades in the obsolete ocean, making it even impossible to close ports, dividing not only Japan but the entire world into innumerable archipelagos. "