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Literature / Arts

Arata Isozaki

(Phaidon 2009)

Ken Tadashi Oshima

This impressive monograph on the philosophy and aesthetics of Arata Isozaki was published in 2009, ten years before this visionary architect would be named a Pritzker prize laureate. Isozaki is notable for his focus on process as a means by which seemingly paradoxical elements—future/past, East/West, built/unbuilt—may be incorporated in design, creating works that he himself describes as “crossbred, hybrid, divided, and eclectic.”

Author Ken Tadashi Oshima has tackled the daunting task of digesting Isozaki’s five decade-strong body of global work by outlining the operative strategies of his design process with these six key concepts: process, genesis, atlas, trans, isle, and flux. Each concept is introduced through Isozaki’s own writing, itself lauded as “an architecture of words,” together with a selection of projects, some realized and others not, that embody it.

Dynamism is key to Isozaki’s work, and is driven by his perceptions of time, place and object. His interpretation of ruins is particularly interesting, as an image of the present that is at once symbolic of past and future. Devastation, elimination, violence, rebuilding, progress: to Isozaki these are all dynamic forces, at once destructive yet with the potential to be instructive. Equally, a consciousness of the tension and fusion between East and West—with their conflicting senses of space and time—is forefront in Isozaki’s work, often interpreted through the concept of ma (gap or pause). As Oshima shows, it is this transnational awareness that underpins the connectivity Isozaki finds between global universality and local identity.

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