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Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects. Sendai Mediatheque, Miyagi, Japan. 1995–2001. Model: acrylic, 10 5/8 x 31 1/2 x 29 1/8″ (27 x 80 x 74 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the architect in honor of Philip Johnson | © 2015 Toyo Ito
Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects. Sendai Mediatheque, Miyagi, Japan. 1995–2001. Model: acrylic, 10 5/8 x 31 1/2 x 29 1/8″ (27 x 80 x 74 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the architect in honor of Philip Johnson | © 2015 Toyo Ito
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New MoMA Exhibition Spotlights The Works Of Pritzker Prize Winners

Picture of Taylor Haacke
Updated: 17 March 2016
The Museum of Modern Art has done it again, this time spotlighting the works of Japanese architects in its exhibition titled A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond, on display from March 13th through July 4th, 2016. This is MoMA’s first presentation dedicated solely to Japanese architects, and focuses on their designs in the modern world – many of which circulate around the Pritzker Prize. The exhibit showcases 44 project installations and concludes with a look at the reconstruction of Japan after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, which destroyed many homes and residencies. We find out more.

A Japanese Constellation takes a look at the works of three generations of Japanese architects. It is abstracted into six bisecting spaces, beginning with a display of ‘models, drawings, and digital films’ by architects Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa, Sou Fujimoto, Akihisa Hirata, and Junya Ishigami. The exhibition goes on to demonstrate how common architectural themes can be found throughout these three generations, which, in turn, creates a strong central identity for Japanese architects on a global – and historical – scale.

Toyo Ito. Sendai Mediatheque, Miyagi, Japan. 1995–2001. © Naoya Hatakeyama
Toyo Ito. Sendai Mediatheque, Miyagi, Japan. 1995–2001 | © Naoya Hatakeyama

You are first introduced to the works of Toyo Ito, a conceptual architect who specializes in exposing the complexities of contemporary life in conjunction with the limitations of 20th-century Modernism. Ito was born in 1941 during the height of World War I, which is a distinguishing element of consideration in his works. As a young architect, he worked in the offices of Kiyonori Kikutake, known for their ‘visionary urban experiments’. Ito established his own office in 1971, and from there, he built upon this vision. His transitory designs and use of lightweight materials made it possible for his work to cope with the rapidly transformative changes to Japanese cities in the late 20th century.

Sou Fujimoto. House N, Oita, Japan. 2006–08. © Iwan Baan
Sou Fujimoto. House N, Oita, Japan. 2006–08 | © Iwan Baan

The works of Kazuyo Sejima come next. Her designs reflect the physical experiences of architecture in relation to time and the human body. Sejima worked in Mr. Ito’s offices in the early 1980s until she opened her own office in 1987, during a time of economic turmoil in Japan. Subsequently, her designs possess a certain social and economic consciousness. Her first projects can be critically examined as balancing the concentrated and intimate experiences of space.

Akihisa Hirata. Showroom H Masuya, Niigata, Japan. 2006–07. © Nacása & Partners Inc.
Akihisa Hirata. Showroom H Masuya, Niigata, Japan. 2006–07 | © Nacása & Partners Inc.

Next come the works of SANAA, a collaboration of architects Sejima, Nishizawa, and Associates, operating in three studios that share a workspace. This collective practice allows for immediate and precise feedback across the studios from each respective architect. SANAA uses more industrialized material than Ito and Sejima, working on larger projects. They use clean, straightforward designs in a language that is easy for modern architects to understand. They tend to push the boundaries of their spaces, allowing for a spatial continuum with more potential to shift to suit the varying needs of its inhabitants.

Following SANAA come the works of Ryue Nishizawa, Sou Fujimoto, Akihisa Hirata, and Junya Ishigami. Concluding the exhibition is the Home-For-All initiative, which seeks to reconstruct social spaces for those affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake.