1986 - Arata Isozaki 1931 –


Designer: Isozaki, Arata (1931-); Tange, Kenzo (1913-2005); Ueda, Atsushi (1930-)
Copyright: Sir James M. Richards/Architectural Press Archive/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1970)

The first Gold Medallist with no British connection for seven years, the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki was honoured for his numerous houses, art galleries, museums and other civic buildings and his planning of town centres.


Jonathan Glancey (then editor of the RIBA Journal) wrote in his citation: ‘He was born in Oita in 1931 and educated at the University of Tokyo, after which he worked with the brutalist architect Kenzo Tange, setting up his own practice in 1963. He moved from a highly mannered brutalism, exemplified by the Oita Prefectural Library (1962-66), through a glorious Mannerist phase in the 1970s when his buildings were influenced by such disparate designers as Norman Foster and Hans Hollein – the key buildings must be the Kamioka Town Hall (1975-77) and the City Art Museum Kitakyushu (1972-74) - to work (in the 1980s) in a rich Baroque form, witnessed by the vast Tsukuba Town centre (1983).


‘Isozaki’s architecture has been described as Mannerist reaction to the strict Classical canons of Modernism. And like a 17th century Italian he believes that “architecture is a machine for the production of meaning”. Although not a question of anything goes, his buildings are full of mannered references to a plethora of historical and modern styles, from ancient Greece to Super-Studio. They also pay homage in subtle ways to traditional Japanese forms and are thus a kind of perfect representation of the spirit of modern Japan. And like most Japanese products they are beautifully finished...’


Designer: Isozaki, Arata (1931-)
Copyright: Roberl Elwall/RIBA Library Photographs Collection (1995)


Arata Isozaki has always seen himself as a descendent of humanists in the western tradition, and he has chosen a career of thinking about architecture through his practice of it. He likes to extend himself beyond the bounds of being an architect, and expand his horizons to include the arts of calligraphy and painting.