Toyo Ito & Associates

toyo-ito-portrait.jpgToyo Ito. Image © Yoshiaki Tsutsui

By Lise Laurberg

The ideas of Japanese architect Toyo Ito represent the essence of a futuristic dream: Friendly and socially responsible buildings that challenge the spatial conventions of modernist architecture.

When foreigners imagine a Japanese cityscape, we often have futuristic architecture in mind, equivalent to the type known from popular Manga books such as AKIRA from the 1980's: Large complexes of fluid shapes and intelligent towers interacting with a changing environment. The actual cities of Japan are of course much too normal to meet our wild expectations - but the fascinating buildings of Toyo Ito (born 1941) come surprisingly close.

Toyo Ito started his career working for Kiyonori Kikutake, one of the main figures of the 1960's Metabolist movement, and the heritage from avant-garde architects such as Kisho Kurokawa is evident in Ito's projects.

Ito founded his own studio URBOT (short for Urban Robot) in 1971, but changed the name to the more conventional Toyo Ito & Associates in 1979. Today, Ito is mostly famous for his larger projects, many of them highly experimental in terms of both architectural shapes and use of new technology. The 80's and early 90's saw the Tower of Winds and the Egg of Winds: both buildings that would change their appearance through the use of computer technology, depending on surrounding conditions such as wind and noise.

In recent years, Ito has increasingly built outside of Japan, and his architecture seems to focus ever stronger on the flow of space in three dimensions. In buildings such as the Taichung Metropolitan Opera House and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, right angles and even the distinctions between wall, floor and ceiling dissolve to create a fluid, spatial continuity.

The office of Toyo Ito & Associates is known to foster young talents, counting world famous architects such as Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA and Akihisa Hirata.

Toyo Ito was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2013.

June 07, 2017 /

Gifu Media Cosmos
Toyo Ito & Associates
Gifu, Japan

Gifu Media Cosmos sits in the heart of Gifu, a mountainous province in central Japan. Designed by the renowned architect Toyo Ito & Associates, the building is an inventive and imaginative example of the potentials inherent in timber construction.

Tama Art University Library. Exterior view from the north-east. Photo by Iwan Baan
May 27, 2013 /

Tama Art University Library
Toyo Ito & Associates
Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan

Seen from a distance, Tama Art University Library's razor-sharp concrete arches resemble those of a Roman aqueduct. But these associations come to a sudden end once you enter the building and find a wide-stretched cavernous and arcade-like space.

Ken Iwata Mother and Child Museum by Toyo Ito & Associates in Imabari City, Japan. Exterior exhibition area.
Photo: Iwan baan
July 09, 2012 /

Ken Iwata Mother and Child Museum
Toyo Ito & Associates
Imabari City, Japan

The Ken Iwata Mother and Child Museum is a semi-open museum designed to house 44 pieces of sculptures created by the sculptor Ken Iwata.

Museum of Architecture exterior aerial view
December 12, 2011 /

Museum of Architecture
Toyo Ito & Associates
Imabari, Japan

The museum is located on a hilly site overlooking the Seto Inland Sea in the southwest of Omishima, a small island blessed with abundant nature with its orange groves and beautiful sunsets.

Za-Koenji Public Theatre by Toyo Ito & Associates in Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan. exterior facade.
Photo: Iwan Baan
November 08, 2010 /

Za-Koenji Public Theatre
Toyo Ito & Associates
Suginami-ku, Tokyo,, Japan

Za-Koenji, located within a residential district, is a public theatre replacing the old Koenji Hall.

BAM/PFA by Toyo Ito & Associates in Berkeley, California, USA. Exterior rendering.
Image courtesy Kuramochi + Oguma
December 01, 2008 /

Toyo Ito & Associates
Berkeley, California, USA

Plans for a new visual arts facility for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) were initiated following a 1997 survey that found that the museum's existing concrete structure did not meet current seismic standards.

Taichung Metropolitan Opera House by Toyo Ito & Associates in Taichung City, Taiwan. Rendering.
Photo courtesy Taichung City
March 13, 2006 /

Taichung Metropolitan Opera House
Toyo Ito & Associates
Taichung City, Taiwan

The fluid continuity of the structure reflects the idea that the theatrical arts are spatial arts which combine the body, art, music, and performance.

Tod’s Omotesando by Toyo Ito & Associates in Tokyo, Japan. exterior.
Photo © Edmund Sumner
October 31, 2005 /

Tod’s Omotesando
Toyo Ito & Associates
Tokyo, Japan

The facade of criss-crossed concrete braces reinterprets the silhouettes of the elm trees lining the street.

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