10 Famous Japanese architects you should know

japanese architectural projects Toyo Ito

With so many famous Japanese architects to choose from it’s an almost impossible task to chose such a limited selection. However, if you are into architecture and how architecture is influenced by its culture and surroundings, then this is our choice to get you started, read on….

The Japanese have always been known for their vernacular architecture. Many of their cultural landmarks are steeped in rich tradition and history. Japan is home to some of the most famous sites for architecture, as well as home to famous architects who have designed some of the most eye-catching buildings in the world.

These structures are recognized all over the world for their aesthetic value and functionality. They are wonderful examples of how building design can be an expression of culture, history, and values. Let’s take a look at some of the preeminent architects in Japan today and some new notable architectural studios..

Sou Fujimoto

Fujimoto established Sou Fujimoto Architects in 2000, and since then he has been designing structures in Japan and Europe. Fujimoto’s designs are based on the notion that a structure’s function is determined by human behaviour, and as such, his work has received both domestic and international acclaim. In 2019, he was one of 23 architects chosen to reinvent Paris. He will contribute to the project by redesigning a site in the 17th arrondissement of Paris.

Tadao Ando

Probably one of the greatest voices of modern-day Japanese architecture, Tadao Andō is a Japanese architect who has become one of Japan’s most renowned contemporary architects because of his concrete minimalist designs. See the Japanese concept of Ma.

Having taught himself architecture, Ando produced a number of small-scale, residential structures in Japan in the 1970s and ’80s, such as the Azuma House in Ōsaka (1976) and the Koshino House in Ashiya (1981).

Azuma House

These early designs featured beautifully crafted reinforced concrete walls, producing a brutal minimalist appearance with simple contemplative interior spaces. Ando’s aesthetic has remained the same throughout his career, essentially Modernist inspired by Le Corbusier and his brutalist concrete structures.

Ando’s architectural style is said to create a “haiku” effect, creating nothingness and empty space to represent the simplicity and the beauty of minimalism. He develops designs utilizing complex spaces yet maintaining the visual appearance of simplicity.

At 80 years of Ando continues to work on projects internationally.

Kenzō Tange 

Architect and Pritzker Prize winner Kenzo Tange (1913-2005) was one of the most significant architects of the 20th century, combining traditional Japanese styles with modernism, and designing buildings on five continents. Kanzo Tange worked on many local and international projects, his work winning several architectural awards. He passed away in 2005. His studio continues to develop and design new projects internationally.

Toyo Ito

Toyo Ito’s daring designs and fresh approach to each project are what make him one of Japan’s most renowned architects working today. In addition to physical requirements, Ito believed architecture should address sensory issues, which may explain the enthusiastic public response to his works. In 2013, the Pritzker Architecture Prize recognised him as a result. According to the Pritzker jury, his architecture conveys a sense of optimism, lightness, and pleasure, as well as an air of uniqueness and universality.’

From a relatively modest start, he began to experiment more as his projects got bigger in size. Many of these works are of major architectural importance. As such in his later life, he began to teach and mentor younger architects and many Japanese architects site him as their main influence.

japanese architects
Photo: Patrick Lopez Jaimes

Kengo Kuma

According to Time magazine, Kuma who was named the world’s most influential architect in 2021, has a goal to enrich the connection between architecture and the land. Architecture, in his opinion, is a man-made object cut off from its environment, and his mission is to explore and improve the relationship between nature and architecture.

Considered to be one of the best Japanese architects his projects can be seen internationally. He also heads Kuma lab a think tank with over 200 staff exploring the ways in which architecture interacts with the environment.

He’s probably best known for the The V&A Dundee and The Lotus House Japan.

The V&A Dundee

READ & Architects

READ stands for Relationship, Environment, Architecture, and Design. The studio based in Tokyo has quickly formed a strong reputation for beautifully thought out archittural projects.

In their own words “Our purpose is to create the new relationships and the better environments through our architectural designs.”

FujiwaraMuro Architects 

Quickly establishing a reputation for modern minimalist housing. Led by architects Shintaro Fujiwara and Yoshio Muro the firm specialises in creating small houses with fantastic views.

Apollo Architects & Associates 

Another studio that is creating beautiful minimalist architecture often brutal but nonetheless beautiful. Apollo Architects is the studio for the principal architect and creative director Satoshi Kurosaki. His creative philosophy can be seen clearly across all his projects clean minimalist lines, great form, and function.

Suppose Design Office

We included this design for its aesthetic, clean lines, and minimalist approach whilst using rich dark woods, stone, and concrete. The firm has a portfolio of designs from residential dwellings to public projects including a very cool-looking public loo that appears to float.

Go Size Go Fujita

Go Size the design practice of Go Fujita has been designing both residential and commercial buildings for several years. Probably the most popular is the F residence which was hailed in many circles for its stark slabbed concrete aesthetic. Designed as both a home and office it’s still being featured in books and magazines around the world.

Photo: Nacasa & Partners

Japanese architects have won the prestigious Pritzker Prize 8 times since its inception in 1979, more than any other country. Japanese contemporary architecture is admired for its creativity, sustainability, and the belief that buildings need to exist harmoniously with people and the environment they exist in.

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