AccScience Publishing / JCAU / Volume 5 / Issue 1 / DOI: 10.36922/jcau.353
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The extraordinary life and work of Arata Isozaki (1931 – 2022): Seven decades of visionary architecture

Steffen Lehmann1*
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1 Urban Futures Lab, The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada 89103, USA
Journal of Chinese Architecture and Urbanism 2023, 5(1), 353
Submitted: 3 February 2023 | Accepted: 18 March 2023 | Published: 19 April 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Architecture and shared values between China and other civilizations)
© 2023 by the Author(s). This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution -Noncommercial 4.0 International License (CC-by the license) ( )

In December 2022, the Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki, passed away at his home in Okinawa, aged 91. Known as a theorist as well as a practitioner, Isozaki leaves behind a seven-decade career in architecture, with more than 300 designs and 100 built structures on five continents. This article analyzes the extraordinary life and work of the Japanese grandmaster and presents a portrait of his innovative urban design concepts and buildings. Despite its diversity, the author suggests that his oeuvre can be categorized into four distinctly different phases, exemplifying how Isozaki constantly reinvented and challenged himself. Isozaki combined Eastern and Western philosophies like no other architect before him and had a significant influence on Chinese architecture. He also practiced in China, where he had an office in Shanghai (since 2000) and realized a series of important buildings, including the Shenzhen Cultural Center and Library, the Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, and the Shanghai Symphony Hall. The author is a former collaborator and project partner of Isozaki during the 1990s, and draws from close knowledge, first-hand observations, and conversations to comment the most relevant projects and adds background information. Isozaki’s work was concerned with formal and intellectual expressions; it is complex and highly personal in its interdisciplinary approach and absorption of a wide range of influences. For Isozaki, architecture was predominantly a cultural practice. Given that Isozaki has recently passed away and his oeuvre is now closed, the changed circumstances ask for a renewed focus and deeper interpretation of his remarkable, unusual legacy. He created original ideas, formal innovations, and versatile concepts for spaces that defy characterization as belonging to any single tendency or school of thought.

Japanese post-war architecture
Kenzo Tange
Arata Isozaki
Architectural and cultural meaning

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Conflict of interest
The author declares no conflicts of interest. The author worked with Arata Isozaki and Associates in Tokyo from 1990 to 1992 and subsequently collaborated as a project partner for buildings in Berlin (1993 – 2000).
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Journal of Chinese Architecture and Urbanism, Electronic ISSN: 2717-5626 Published by AccScience Publishing