Portrait by Yoshiaki Tsutsui. The photo at right is Iwan Baan’s “Tokyo #1″ (2006), part of a project to celebrate the opening of Ito’s Mikimoto Ginza 2 building. See more of Baan’s work in a solo exhibition on view through April 13 at Perry Rubenstein Gallery in Los Angeles.
“Firmness, commodity, and delight.” These are the three words–cribbed from Vitruvius, who considered “firmitas, utilitas, venustas” to be the fundamental principles of architecture–that appear on the Louis Sullivan-inspired bronze medallion that is awarded to each laureate of the Pritzker architecture prize. This year the coveted hardware goes to Toyo Ito, who’ll receive it along with $100,000 at a ceremony in Boston on May 29. Ito is the sixth Japanese architect to receive the prize, which has previously been awarded to Kenzo Tange, Fumihiko Maki, Tadao Ando, and SANAA’s Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa.
Ito was selected by a jury that included Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who lauded the 71-year-old for “improving the quality of both public and private spaces,” and 2002 Pritzker laureate Glenn Murcutt, who praised Ito’s dogged, shape-shifting pursuit of excellence. “His work has not remained static and has never been predictable,” noted the Aussie architect. And for Ito, that’s exactly the point. “I have been designing architecture bearing in mind that it would be possible to realize more comfortable spaces if we are freed from all the restrictions even for a little bit,” said Ito upon learning of his award. “However, when one building is completed, I become painfully aware of my own inadequacy, and it turns into energy to challenge the next project. Probably this process must keep repeating itself in the future. Therefore, I will never fix my architectural style and never be satisfied with my works.”