Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of the Japanese firm SANAA were awarded the 2010 Pritzker Prize during a ceremony on New York City’s Ellis Island earlier this week. Winning the architecture field’s top honor is just the latest in a steady string of major awards for this Japanese duo who frequently employ glass walls to make barriers transparent or translucent. One of the buildings cited by the Pritzker Prize jury was the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion, which opened to great fanfare in 2006 (see GLASS #105, Winter 2006 – 2007).
Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima (right) have rocketed to the top of the architecture field by ushering a less bombastic style of architecture, one that uses opacity and transparency to ethereal effect.
The Pritzker jury cited the unique qualities of SANAA’s buildings in their announcement of the prize. “They explore like few others the phenomenal properties of continuous space, lightness, transparency, and materiality to create a subtle synthesis,” reads the official jury citation. “Sejima and Nishizawa’s architecture stands in direct contrast with the bombastic and rhetorical. Instead, they seek the essential qualities of architecture that result in a much-appreciated straightforwardness, economy of means, and restraint in their work.”
Though they have designed in a wide range of materials in vastly different settings, SANAA frequently make use of glass to create opacity, translucence, or trasparency in walls. They frequently position windows in unusual arrays to create an ethereal yet organic quality to their spaces. In some ways they can be called architects of light itself, something that is certainly true in the case of the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion project which makes use of the ever-changing qualities of natural light. In an exclusive interview with contributing editor Marsha Miro for a 2006 article for GLASS: The UrbanGlass Art Quarterly, Ryue Nishizawa said “Glass art made the glass wall possible” in a reference to the ancient glass casting techniques that were related to the process of making 13 1/2-foot-tall glass wall panels used in the Toledo Pavilion.
Take a tour of the Toledo Mueum of Art’s Glass Pavilion via YouTube below:
For more information on SANAA’s work, see the Pritker Award’s Website.