Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima, Photo by Takashi Okamoto, Courtesy of SANAA

By Lise Laurberg

Based in Tokyo, SANAA designs highly aesthetic and experimental buildings in Japan, Europe and USA. The white, ethereal architecture of SANAA has to many people, become synonymous with contemporary Japanese architecture.

SANAA was founded in 1995 by Kazuyo Sejima (born 1956), and Ryue Nishizawa (born 1966), a former employee at Kazuyo Sejima and Associates. In 1997, Ryue Nishizawa also founded his own office, Ryue Nishizawa and Associates, and to this day both architects work on individual projects outside of SANAA.

SANAAs work includes a large number of successful public buildings, such as the New Museum and the Rolex Learning Center, but the architects also experiment with housing designs to shape and change our daily life, especially in their individual practices (see for example Moriyama House).

In spite of their whiteness, the buildings of SANAA are very far from modernist architecture, as the architects continue to incorporate elements of doubt and ambiguity into their works. The extensive use of glass in SANAA's architecture has quite a different effect than seen in most glass buildings, as SANAA uses the glass to create reflections and layered spaces with unclear boundaries. Also, the architects tend to use playful elements in their architecture, adding a note of humor to the experience.

SANAA is often said to work with a 'fourth dimension' in their design of space. This is to say that the complexity of their buildings always contain traits that cannot be explained or communicated via drawings or photos. The touch of humor, the spatial ambiguity and the use of reflections all demand that you visit the buildings to really understand them.  

In 2010, SANAA was awarded the highest honor in architecture, the Pritzker Prize. In 2004, SANAA received a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale for 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

Visit the website of SANAA

October 19, 2015 /

River building, Grace Farms
New Canaan, Connecticut, USA

Nestled into the rolling landscape of Grace Farms, The River building begins on a knoll and then flows down the long, gentle slope in a series of bends, forming pond like spaces on its journey.

Musée Louvre-Lens by SANAA in Lens, France. Exterior by night.
Musée Louvre-Lens. Image courtesy Julien Lanoo
May 16, 2013 /

Musée Louvre-Lens
Lens, France

The new expansion of the Louvre in Lens is 360 meters of steel and glass unfolding on top of an old coal mine and expected to attract 500.000 visitors each year. It is a museum that aims at educating visitors in how to look at art and on top of that revitalize the post-industrial town Lens in France.

Rolex Learning Center by SANAA in Lausanne, Switzerland. Exterior.
Photo © Iwan Baan
April 21, 2010 /

Rolex Learning Center
Lausanne, Switzerland

The Rolex Learning Center is above all a library and learning space devoted to the cultivation of knowledge by an array of different methods.

Serpentine Pavilion 2009 by SANAA in London, United Kingdom. Aeriel top view.
Photo courtesy Serpentine Pavilion
August 24, 2009 /

Serpentine Pavilion 2009
London, United Kingdom

Sejima and Nishizawa have created a beautiful Pavilion that resembles a reflective cloud or a floating pool of water, sitting atop a series of delicate columns.

SANAA - New Museum - Exterior
December 17, 2007 /

New Museum
New York, New York, USA

A glimmering metal mesh-clad stack of boxes shifted off axis in a dynamic composition.

SANAA - 21st Century Museum - Interior
December 18, 2006 /

21st Century Museum
Kanazawa, Japan

Circular in form, the building has no front or back, leaving it free to be explored from all directions.

Glass Pavilion by SANAA in Toledo, Ohio, USA. Exterior garden view.
Photo: arcspace
September 04, 2006 /

Glass Pavilion
Toledo, Ohio, USA

The Glass Pavilion, an annex across the street from the Toledo Museum of Art, contains an extensive glass art collection, temporary exhibition galleries and glass making facilities.

IVAM Extension by SANAA in Valencia, Spain. Exterior view.
Image courtesy SANAA
October 03, 2005 /

IVAM Extension
Valencia, Spain

IVAM, inaugurated in 1989, was the first modern art museum to open in Spain. Designed by Valencian architects Emilio Giménez and Carlos Salvadores the museum was remodelled in 2000 by Emilio Giménez and Julián Esteban.

The Zollverein School by SANAA in Essen, Germany. 
Photo © Thomas Mayer
May 23, 2005 /

The Zollverein School
Essen, Germany

The Zollverein School of Management & Design, inaugurated on July 31, 2006, is the first new building on the historical coal-mining Zollverein site; declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.

Copyright 1999 - 2017 arcspace all rights reserved.