An Architect Who Builds Community Wins the Pritzker Prize

Riken Yamamoto, whose understated buildings quietly emphasize community and connectivity, has been awarded this year’s Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor.

“Whether he designs private houses or public infrastructure, schools or fire stations, city halls or museums, the common and convivial dimension is always present,” the jury said in its citation announcing the award on Tuesday. “His constant, careful and substantial attention to community has generated public interworking space systems that incentivize people to convene in different ways.”

Yamakawa Villa, 1977, Nagano, Japan. This early project, for a client who wanted a summer cottage in the woods, is designed like an open-air terrace, without exterior walls. Living rooms seamlessly merge — and animals are welcome.Credit…Tomio Ohashi/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

In the private residence, Yamakawa Village, sleeping quarters and the kitchen are dispersed into small rooms.Credit…Tomio Ohashi/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

The desire to eliminate barriers between public and private realms was evident in Yamamoto’s first project, from 1977, a private open-air summer house in the woods of Nagano, Japan. “It has only a roof, no walls,” the 78-year-old architect recalled in a telephone interview from Yokohama, Japan, where he is based. “In the winter season, many of the animals are coming in.”

Similarly, a house in Kawasaki that Yamamoto designed the following year for two artists featured a pavilion-like room that could serve as a stage for performances, with living quarters underneath.

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