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Arata Isozaki: the architect as artist

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 October 2020

Hyunjung Cho*


This paper is not a comprehensive survey of the architectural career of Arata Isozaki, one of the most distinguished practicing architects in the world today and the 2019 winner of the Pritzker Prize, but a specific look at his formative years of the 1960s when he began to build his own design methodology. It delineates Isozaki’s encounter with the avant-garde art movement of the 1960s, collectively called “Anti-Art, ” against the backdrop of the “anti-spirit” of Japanese society. Although Isozaki’s artistic side has been overstated at times, previous studies rarely addressed how his intensive interactions with art circles played a role in shaping his design methodology. I would like to examine the convergence of creative individuals and cross-disciplinary connections to understand Isozaki’s architectural thinking.

This study examines how Isozaki’s collaborations with his artist contemporaries enabled him to formulate the notion of the “invisible city, ” a radically new design concept characterised by the expansion of the nature of architecture from producing isolated built-forms to all-encompassing natural and manmade environments. However, after drawing on communications and information theory, which prevailed in 60s architectural circles, Isozaki’s destructive and anarchistic connotation of “invisible city” was channeled into a systematic cybernetic model and eventually transformed into a constructive planning method. I will discuss the realisation of a cybernetic environment at the Festival Plaza of Expo’ 70 and trace the legacy of “invisible city” in his later postmodern work.

© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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