Toyo Ito, An Architect Never Satisfied

b. 1941

Architect Toyo Ito in 2010
Architect Toyo Ito in 2010. Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage Collection/WireImage/Getty Images (cropped)

Toyo Ito was the sixth Japanese architect to become a Pritzker Laureate. Throughout his long career, Ito has designed residential homes, libraries, theaters, pavilions, stadia, and commercial buildings. Since Japan's ruinous tsunamis, Toyo Ito has become an architect-humanitarian known for his "Home-for-All" initiative.


Born: June 1, 1941 in Seoul, Korea to Japanese parents; family moved back to Japan in 1943

Education and Career Highlights:

  • 1965: University of Tokyo, Department of Architecture
  • 1965-1969: Kiyonori Kikutake Architects and Associates (Kikutake is associated with the Metabolism Movement)
  • 1971: Founded Urban Robot (URBOT), renamed Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects in 1979, Tokyo, Japan

Selected Works by Ito:

  • 1971: Aluminum House, Tokyo, Japan
  • 1976: White U House, Nakano-ku, Tokyo, Japan
  • 1984: Silver Hut House, Nakano-ku, Tokyo, Japan (1986 Architecture Institute of Japan award)
  • 1986: Tower of Winds, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa, Japan
  • 1991: Yatsushiro Municipal Museum, Yatsushiro-shi, Kumamoto, Japan
  • 1997: Dome in Odate, Odate-shi, Akita, Japan (Ministry of Education Award; Encouragement of Arts Aware; Japan Art Academy Prize)
  • 2000: Sendai Mediatheque, Sendai-shi, Miyagi, Japan (2001 Grand Prize of Good Design Award from Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization; 2003 Architectural Institute of Japan Prize; 2006 Public Building Award)
  • 2002: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, London, UK
  • 2004: Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano, Japan
  • 2004: TOD'S Omotesando, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
  • 2005: Mikimoto Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
  • 2006: Meiso no Mori Municipal Funeral Hall, Kakamigahara-shi, Gifu, Japan
  • 2007: Tama Art University Library, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo, Japan
  • 2008: Za-Koenji Public Theatre, Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan
  • 2009: Main Stadium for the World Games 2009, Kaohsiung, Republic of China (Taiwan)
  • 2010: Hotel Porta Fira, Barcelona, Spain
  • 2011: Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture, Imabari-shi, Ehime, Japan
  • 2012: Yaoko Kawagoe Museum, Saitama, Japan

The Taichung Metropolitan Opera House, Taichung City, Republic of China (Taiwan) was begun in 2005 and is under construction.

Selected Awards:

  • 2000: Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize, American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • 2006: Royal Gold Medal, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
  • 2013: Pritzker Architecture Prize

Ito, in His Own Words:

"Architecture is bound by various social constraints. I have been designing architecture bearing in mind that it would be possible to realize more comfortable spaces if we are freed from all the restrictions even for a little bit. However, when one building is completed, I become painfully aware of my own inadequacy, and it turns into energy to challenge the next project. Probably this process must keep repeating itself in the future. Therefore, I will never fix my architectural style and never be satisfied with my works."—Pritzker Prize Comment

About the Home-for-All Project:

After the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, Ito organized a group of architects to develop humane, communal, public spaces for survivors of natural disasters. "The Sendai Mediatheque had been partially damaged during the 3.11 earthquake," Ito told Maria Cristina Didero of domus magazine. "To the citizens of Sendai, this piece of architecture had been a beloved cultural salon....Even without a specific program, people would nonetheless gather around this place to exchange information and interact with one another....This led me to realize the importance of a small space like the Sendai Mediatheque for people to gather and communicate within disaster areas. This is the starting point of Home-for-All."

Every community has its own needs. For Rikuzentakata, an area devastated by the 2011 tsunami, a design based on natural wooden poles with attached modules, similar to ancient pole or pile dwellings, was exhibited at the Japan Pavilion of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. A full-scale prototype was built onsite in early 2013.

Ito's public service work with the Home-for-All initiative was cited by the 2013 Pritzker Jury as "a direct expression of his sense of social responsibility."

Learn More About Home-for-All:
"Toyo Ito: Re-building from disaster," an interview with Maria Cristina Didero in domus online magazine, January 26, 2012
"Toyo Ito: Home-for-All," an interview with Gonzalo Herrero Delicado, María José Marcos in domus online magazine, September 3, 2012
Home-for-All, 13th Venice Biennale of Architecture >>>

Learn More:

  • Toyo Ito: Forces of Nature by Jessie Turnbull, Princeton Architectural Press, 2012
  • Toyo Ito: Sendai Mediatheque by Gary Hume, Actar, 2002
  • Toyo Ito Works Projects Writings by Andrea Maffei, 2002
  • Toyo Ito: Blurring Architecture 1971-2005 by Ulrich Schneider, 1999
  • Toyo Ito by Toyo Ito, Riken Yamamoto, Dana Buntrock, Taro Igarashi, Phaidon, 2014

Sources: Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects, website at; Biography, the Pritzker Architecture Prize website; Pritzker Prize Media Kit, p. 2 (at ©2013 The Hyatt Foundation [websites accessed March 17, 2013]