A woman with an outstanding career

Created On:

March 28, 2016

Among women in architecture, one of the most prominent names is the Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima, a distinguished educator and winner of over 15 awards and recognitions.  

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She is one of the founding partners of the renowned SANAA architecture firm, along with architect Ryue Nishizawa since 1995, where they achieved great recognition with several of their works worldwide.

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With a solid and remarkable international career, she was the first woman appointed Director of the Architecture Sector at the Venice Biennale in its 2010 edition. That same year, she was awarded the Pritzker Prize with her partner, becoming the second woman to win it, after Zaha Hadid in 2004. In 2018, she was appointed as a juror for the same prize, considered the highest honor in architecture. She has also dedicated herself to teaching at various prestigious universities in Japan, Switzerland, the United States, Italy, and Austria.  

In the early years of her career, she worked at the studio of the architect Toyo Ito, which greatly influenced her thinking. During those years, she defended and fully believed in the theories and foundations of her mentor, who reflected on the era of images and the chaos of our world, attempting to break down the wall separating interior from exterior.  

However, Kazuyo eventually separated from Ito in 1987 to explore new ideas. That is when she began to delve into diagrammatic architecture, founding her first studio, "Kazuyo Sejima & Associates." With her new architecture, she breaks away from any historical continuity, creating radically modern and abstract architecture. She proposes, through her designs, to inhabit a place between the material and the abstract. It is minimalist architecture, meant to be experienced with the senses.  

"…when we lived in a neighborhood of identical semi-detached houses for Hitachi employees, an American engineer arrived. When I entered his house, I felt another great surprise. His way of using the same house that we had was different. Inside, it was completely different. They had covered the entire floor with red carpet. They had removed partitions; the space was continuous. With four elements, they had transformed a house and the way of inhabiting it. The houses were very simple, all completely the same. But it was clear that they allowed for great individual freedom."  

Interview with Sjima, 16/11/2008  

SANAA's architecture is among the most influential in contemporary Japanese architecture. The design stands out for its use of simple geometries with multiple layers on its facades, ranging from glass to acrylic, steel, or concrete, creating a simple yet dynamic architectural ensemble.  

At SANAA, the way of designing is somewhat unique. The production of models is an intuitive and prolific process, allowing Sejima to resolve the contradiction between mind, space, and body. The goal is to comfortably accommodate one, some, or many humans in one space. It is an obsessive, conscious, and necessary experiment in the design process.  

"We are not interested in doing many projects. We are interested in taking our time to do them. We do not know how to work faster without sparing efforts and without theories."  

Interview with Sjima, 16/11/2008  

From her most outstanding works (prior to the founding of SANAA):

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Name: Pachinko Parlor I | Author: Kazuyo Sejima | Date: 1991 | Location: Hitachi, Japón | Program: recreation and entertainment.

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Name: Villa en el Bosque | Author: Kazuyo Sejima | Date: 1997 | Location: Okayama-ken, Japón | Program: museum and housing.

We leave you the link to an interview with the architects of SANAA at Harvard University in 2021, where you can listen to them talk more about their latest works: