2011 AIA Gold Medal

Walker Hall. Photo by David Kilper.

Fumihiko Maki receives architecture's highest honor

Posted by Press Release, The American Institute of Architects December 17, 2010

Washington, D.C. – December 17, 2010 – The Board of Directors of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) voted today to award the 2011 AIA Gold Medal to Fumihiko Maki, Hon. FAIA.

The AIA Gold Medal, voted on annually, is considered to be the profession’s highest honor that an individual can receive. The Gold Medal honors an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Maki will be honored at the 2011 AIA National Convention in New Orleans.

Fumihiko Maki, perhaps Japan's most pre-eminent living architect, began his career in the 1960s as a charter member of the Metabolists—a group of Japanese architects who, first and foremost, believed in the obsolescence of fixed forms and the endless possibilities offered by flexible and expandable modular structures. Maki's approach to design is to assemble disparate collages of forms together in his buildings; abstract volumes as well as elemental shapes—spheres, cones, cubes, cylinders. His buildings are multifaceted juxtapositions of both discordant unity and synchronized disarray. The intent in binding varied forms together is to draw attention to the exposed links between these ensemble composition's individual elements and exploit them as dramatic and revelatory markers of time and place, full of immediacy and a bit of whimsy.

Maki has lived most of his life in Tokyo, though he studied in the United States (at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and at Cranbrook), and frequently teaches here, as well as in Japan. He has always maintained an Eastern influence in his work, often exhibited in his comfort with irrational, asymmetrical arrangements of space.

"He has a unique style of Modernism that is infused with an ephemeral quality and elegance which reflects his Japanese origin," wrote longtime colleague Toshiko Mori, FAIA, in her recommendation letter. "What stands out most about Mr. Maki is the consistent quality of his work at the highest caliber and the creation of ineffable atmospheres; his buildings convey a quiet and elegant moment of reflection."

Examples of Maki's work include:

- The Spiral in Tokyo, a commercial complex for the Wacoal company that assembles a multitude of strong iconic forms into a Cubist composition of varying materials and depths.

- The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, a museum and multi-purpose arts center that transforms Maki's signature ensemble of disparate volumes into a unified conceptual motif: a ship floating into the city from the harbor.

- The Kaze-No-Oka Crematorium in Kyushu, Japan, which takes Maki's language of diverse formal elements down a somber path, filled with elemental material expressions, the play of light and shadow, and a sculptural sparseness that is integrated into the surrounding ancient burial ground landscape.

- Triad in Nagano Japan, a series of small buildings for Harmonic Drive Systems that exemplify Maki's approach to Modernist object-in-space site plans by presenting three separate buildings in a formal dialogue with nature and each other.

- The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which provides a rich glass and wood contrast to the historic masonry buildings that surround it.

Maki is the 67th AIA Gold Medalist. He joins the ranks of such visionaries as Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Renzo Piano, I.M. Pei, Cesar Pelli, Santiago Calatrava, and last year's recipient, Peter Bohlin, FAIA. In recognition of his legacy to architecture, his name will be chiseled into the granite Wall of Honor in the lobby of the AIA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

About The American Institute of Architects

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