Learning From The Master: SANAA

SANAA, the Tokyo architecture studio that has designed several innovative buildings in Japan and around the world, was founded in 1995 by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. Examples of their innovative buildings are the Rolex Learning Center in Lausiane, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Serpentine Pavilion in London, the Christian Dior Building in Omotesando in Tokyo, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, etc.

SANAA won the Pritzker Prize in 2010, and based on the jury citation, the buildings by Sejima and Nishizawa seem deceptively simple. The architects hold a vision of a building as a seamless whole, where the physical presence retreats and forms a sensuous background for people, objects, activities, and landscapes. They explore like few others the phenomenal properties of continuous space, lightness, transparency, and materiality to create a subtle synthesis. Sejima and Nishizawa’s architecture stands in direct contrast with the bombastic and rhetorical. Instead, they seek the essential qualities of architecture that result in a much-appreciated straightforwardness, economy of means, and restraint in their work. It may be tempting to view Sejima and Nishizawa’s refined compositions of lightness and transparency as elitist or rarefied. Their aesthetic, however, is one of inclusion.

Based on the interview in designboom with Sejima and Nishizawa, they both have a unique way of thinking about their projects those were driven by planning, through dimensional organization. They have their interest in how to organize ‘a program’ within a building- the layout of the rooms and how people move inside, but also how to keep a relationship between ‘the program’ and the outside. Then how the outside fits to the surroundings. In some projects, they feel the more three dimensional changes, located outside of the two dimensional wall.

Sejima admitted that Toyo Ito influenced her most in her architect’s career, besides Nishizawa said that the classic Mies van der Rohe and Le corbussier were the biggest influenced in his career journey. They both brand themselves with a trademark Simple without being strict’ because they have tried to create architecture through program and atmosphere. Their frameworks also started from the sketches ideas that turn into process of discussion, then the decision time.

For architecture that is simultaneously delicate and powerful, precise and fluid, ingenious but not overly or overtly clever; for the creation of buildings that successfully interact with their contexts and the activities they contain, creating a sense of fullness and experiential richness; for a singular architectural language that springs from a collaborative process that is both unique and inspirational; for their notable completed buildings and the promise of new projects together, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa are the recipients of the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize.