Berkeley’s Loss: Toyo Ito Wins the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize

Toyo Ito, 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate
Photo by Yoshiaki Tsutsui

Toyo Ito, 71, the Tokyo-based architect who is most famous for his 2000 Sendai Mediatheque, which withstood the devastating 2011 earthquake (in which Sendai was near the epicenter), was named today as recipient of the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The $100,000 award will be presented May 29 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Sendai Mediatheque, 1995—2000, Sendai-shi, Miyagi, Japan
Photo by Nacasa & Partners Inc.

You can see other images of his buildings that are located in Japan, Taiwan and London (the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion), here. What you can’t see is an Ito building in the U.S. His only commission in this country got scratched:

Unbuilt, due to financial considerations: Toyo Ito’s model for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

As James Russell of Bloomberg described the Berkeley project:

He sought to marry an easy, fluid visitor experience with the neutrality of the white-box gallery. So he designed rectangular walls to warp near the corners, like draperies, to form curvy, inviting doors and windows.

But with fundraising for the $200-million Ito project stalled at $81 million, the Berkeley Art Museum’s director, Lawrence Rinder, turned to Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who are integrating a repurposed building—the former printing plant of the University of California, Berkeley…

Rendering of new Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive Building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

…with a new structure:

Rendering of new Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive Building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

This $100-million project, for which all but $5 million has now been raised, is expected to open in 2016, according to the Berkeley museum’s website.

But back to the Pritzker Prize winner who got away. Here’s an excerpt from today’s jury’s citation:

Toyo Ito is a creator of timeless buildings, who at the same time boldly charts new paths. His architecture projects an air of optimism, lightness and joy, and is infused with both a sense of uniqueness and universality. For these reasons and for his synthesis of structure, space and form that creates inviting places, for his sensitivity to landscape, for infusing his designs with a spiritual dimension and for the poetics that transcend all his works, Toyo Ito is awarded the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

And in totally unrelated news, thanks to Kevin McCarthy (@thepaintcast) for being my 7,500th Twitter follower!

Wait a minute: McCarthy? On St. Patrick’s Day? Just call me McCultureGrrl!