Architecture for Humanity Goes to the Pritzker Prize Reception

Architecture for Humanity Goes to the Pritzker Prize Reception

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Jun 04, 2013
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Last week I had the honor of attending the Pritzker Prize reception in Boston, at the behest of the Prize recipient, Toyo Ito. It was a special night, and Mr. Ito's acceptance speech shared more than a few sentiments carried out in Architecture for Humanity's work.

Find out more about the evening and Mr. Ito's architectural philosophy below.

As you may remember, Architecture for Humanity is collaborating with KYSIN-no-kai for the Park for All project. The project is led by the Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects. Toyo Ito is this year's Pritzker Architectural Prize winner, and he kindly invited us to the award reception at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston held on 29 May 2013.

The reception was held in the three-story-high atrium looking out the Boston Harbor. It was a beautiful day despite of the forecast of thunderstorms later in the evening. The award ceremony was held in the ballroom upstairs where you could see the entire Boston skyline.

At each table was a black device that looked like a Walkman. As soon as guests were seated, there was an announcement to dial 1 for English translation and dial 7 for Japanese.

After the Lord Peter Palumbo (the chairman of the jury) and Thomas Pritzker made a celebratory speech and introduction, Toyo Ito gave his acceptance speech. Everybody reached for headsets because they expected him to speak in his native language, but alas, he gave his full speech in English.

At the podium, Mr. Ito mentioned something that resonates with our mission: innovative design must create a building with a close relationship between human settlement and Nature.

Modernity brought us convenience and technology. However, it also brought us isolated society with the pursuit of individualism. Modernist architecture encouraged such individualism by building a (metaphorical) wall between Nature and ourselves, and isolated us in a climate-controlled environment.

Mr. Ito said his work "has always been about tearing down this wall that separates modern architecture from Nature and the local community, in order to create architecture that is open to both." The jury members also took notes on this point.

Mr. Ito concluded:

(E)ach time I go I am reminded of the powerlessness of technology in the face of nature's fury. This was a catastrophe brought about by human pride vis à vis nature.

I believe that the time has come for us to take back our closeness to nature, to open our humdrum city grids to nature's abundance, and to rebuild a more vibrant and human environment. I urge all of us architects to work together to send out a new message to the next century, one that is as bright and full of hope as the one transmitted by our predecessors a century ago.

In order for this to happen, we architects must transform ourselves. Let us not fixate on minor differences, but rather work together to find a message for the next generation that we can all share.

Mr. Ito has built many community centers under the name of "Minna no ie (Home for All)" in the affected area of Tohoku after the earthquake and tsunami in March, 2011. This program is the showcase of his determination to connect people and their heart with Nature.

Architecture for Humanity is collaborating with him to build the "Minna no hiroba (Park for All)" – a community house with a baseball field for the city of Kamaishi. Mr. Ito's rather small intervention encourages people to live harmoniously with Nature instead of fearing its wrath by reintroducing a building form, technology or material that used to be a part of a community, in order to bring normalcy in such a devastated area.

We are honored to work with Mr. Ito to continue reaching out to the affected community with the Power of Design to build back better.

Mr. Ito's entire acceptance speech can be read here.
For more context on Ito's work and mission in Tohoku, see our 2011 update on The Post-Tsunami Landscape.