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Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto wins the 'Nobel of architecture'

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The 53rd Pritzker Architecture Prize has been awarded to Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto for his five-decade career focused on innovative housing projects and educational institutions.

The Nobel of architecture: Yamamoto, 78, is the ninth Japanese laureate of the Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in architecture which is often hailed as the “Nobel of architecture.” No other country has produced as many Pritzker winners in its 45-year-history as Japan.

Yamamoto, who is known for his commitment to fostering community in his designs, will be awarded $100,000 and a bronze medallion.

About Yamamoto: Born in China and raised in Japan, Yamamoto received a master’s degree in architecture from Tokyo University before founding his practice in 1973. Yamamoto's approach combines private and public spaces, a strategy that multiplies opportunities for spontaneous interactions.

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The architect’s inspiration: Yamamoto’s architectural vision was shaped by global journeys to villages, drawing inspiration from the concept of a "threshold" between public and private spaces, and the writings of philosopher Hannah Arendt.

“In the city, we have very few communities — sometimes no community,” Yamamoto told CNN. “You can sometimes have 5,000 people living completely independently from the city, and the people inside (tower blocks) are independent of each other… Most Japanese people believe this is the ideal living system. I don’t agree with that.”

Notable projects: The Pritzker jury praised Yamamoto’s consistent, high-quality work that dignifies and enriches individuals’ lives and their social connections. His notable projects include the virtually transparent Hiroshima Nishi Fire Station, promoting public engagement with firefighters, and The Circle at Zurich's airport, an open 24-hour environment that welcomes residents and travelers to shops and businesses. The 78-year-old also created the Hotakubo housing project in Kumamoto, arranging 110 homes in 16 clusters around a tree-lined central courtyard.

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Last year's winner: The recipient of the 2023 Pritzker award was British architect David Chipperfield, 70. His major works in North America include the Des Moines Public Library in Iowa, the Saint Louis Art Museum in Missouri and the Museo Jumex in Mexico City.

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