Arata Isozaki, Father of Japanese New Wave

b. 1931

Press photo of Arata Isozaki, white-haired, regal Japanese man.
Arata Isozaki. Press photo (cropped) from

He's been called "emperor of Japanese architecture" and "an engineer of controversy."  Some say he is Japan's guerrilla architect for defying conventions, challenging the status quo, and refusing to establish a "brand" or architectural look. Japanese architect Arata Isozaki is known for using bold, exaggerated forms and inventive detailing.


Born: July 23, 1931 in Oita, Kyushu, Japan

Education and Professional:

  • 1954: University of Tokyo, Department of Architecture in the Faculty of Engineering
  • Apprenticed with architect Kenzo Tange
  • 1963: Established Arata Isozaki & Associates

Important Buildings:

Arata Isozaki is known for using bold, exaggerated forms and inventive detailing. His works include:

  • 1967: Fukuoka Sogo Bank, Oita Branch, Oita, Japan
  • 1971-1974: Gunma Museum of Modern Art, Takasaki City, Japan
  • 1981-1986: Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, California
  • 1986-1990: Art Tower Mito (ATM), Ibaraki, Japan
  • 1989-1990: Team Disney Building in Orlando, Florida
  • 1992: Sports Hall, Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, Spain
  • 1995: Kyoto Concert Hall, Japan
  • 1995: Domus Museum, Casa del Hombre (Museum of Mankind), Spain
  • 1999: Nara Convention Center (Nara Centennial Hall), Nara, Japan
  • 2003: Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar
  • 2005: Shenzhen Cultural Center, China
  • 2008: Isozaki Atea (Gate), Bilbao, Spain
  • 2008: Hezheng Museum of Natural History, Hezheng, China
  • 2014: Shanghai Symphony Hall (with Yasushisa Toyota), Shanghai, China
  • 2015: Allianz Tower, CityLife Project, Milan, Italy


New Wave Styles:

Many critics have identified Arata Isozaki with the movement known as Metabolism. More often, Isozaki is seen as the catalyst behind the imaginative, Japanese New Wave architecture.

"Beautifully detailed and composed, often conceptually powerful, the buildings typical of this avant-garde group are strongly single-minded," writes Joseph Giovannini in The New York Times. The critic goes on to describe the design of MOCA:

"Pyramids of various sizes serve as skylights; a half-cylinder barrel roof covers the library; the main forms are cubic. The galleries themselves have a visual stillness about them that is particularly Japanese....Not since the French architectural visionaries of the 18th century has an architect used solid geometric volumes with such clarity and purity, and never with his sense of playfulness. "—Joseph Giovannini, 1986

About Arata Isozaki:

Born and educated in Japan, Arata Isozaki often integrates Eastern ideas into his designs.

For example, in 1990 Isozaki wanted to express a yin-yang theory of positive and negative space when he designed the Team Disney Building in Orlando, Florida. Also, because the offices were to be used by time-conscious executives, he wanted the architecture to make a statement about time.

Serving as offices for the Walt Disney Corporation, the Team Disney Building is a startling postmodern landmark on the otherwise barren stretch of Florida's Route I-4.

The oddly looped gateway suggests gigantic Mickey Mouse ears. At the building's core, a 120-foot sphere forms the world's largest sundial. Inside the sphere is a serene Japanese rock garden.

Isozaki's Team Disney design won a prestigious National Honor Award from the AIA in 1992.

Learn More:

Sources: Metropolitan Museum of Art; Modern Architecture by Kenneth Frampton, 3rd ed., T&H 1992, pp. 283-284; Arata Isozaki: From Japan, A New Wave of International Architects by Joseph Giovannini, The New York Times, August 17, 1986 [accessed June 17, 2015]