Arata Isozaki, visit at the BCN studio

Arata Isozaki's interest is not about daily issues of construction

By Nota Tsekoura, on 06th Jun, 2013 13:40

Office, studio, ateliers visits | ARATA ISOZAKI & Associates Barcelona

We dream, sometimes with faith, sometimes with guts, always trying to imagine a future, near or far. Our dreams are often shaped according to the existence of few trends. Some architects serve with passion the movements of their time while others explore unfamiliar territories with faith towards the unknown. Arata Isozaki is one of the best examples of how an architect can envision the future while following the tradition of his country incorporating them in parallel “western movements”. 

His explorations are endless, towards visions that stand on the crossroad between art and architecture. 

SpaceUnder visited the Arata Isozaki and Associates in Barcelona and discussed with its director Toshiaki Tange their work, the organization of the office's network and the projects under development. 


Arata Isozaki, an architect that won numerous awards including the Asahi award, the Annual Prize Award by the Japan Architectural Association, Pritzker and so on, expands beyond the borders of his country and even at the age of 82, he continues his work through a network of four offices under his name, settled in four different countries (Tokyo, Barcelona, Milan, Shangai). The Tokyo office, operating as the core to the rest and counting 40 years of existence, is run by Isozaki himself and one assistant. The actual office space is Isozaki's house that becomes the “hestia” of all four branches every time that their directors travel to Tokyo to meet. Their latest gathering took place recently for Isozaki's 82nd birthday.

“When the office was founded, Isozaki wanted to be something in between an architect and an artist. For that reason, the office was named Arata Isozaki Atelier. Apart from art, he wanted  to create thing with his hands, which in a sense is much more personal and this is what he always wanted to do.” 



Arata Isozaki's interest is not about daily issues of construction. On the , he always wanted to support ideas and form the ideologies that would support the office himself. His contemplative side has always occupied his mornings, while his artistic and architectural side is put in practice during the office hours, starting at 13.00 when the office in Tokyo opens. This daily schedule has given birth to more than 200 books (unfortunately with only a small number of them translated in English), more than 20 constructed projects and 15 unbuild, and 70 solo and group exhibitions, stage designs and art projects.


Toshiaki Tange informs us that the office in Barcelona has a level of interdependency since there are matters that are discussed with Isozaki and others that are not. The Barcelona office was formed in '85 when they started developing the Palacio de deportes de Sant Jordi for the Olympiad '92 project.This project was the winning entry of a competition. In fact, it was the main reason that they established a branch there, asit was an obligatory requirement according to the municipality of Barcelona, if it were to proceed with its construction. Since then there have been seven  projects, designed and executed by the studio in Barcelona: the Domus Museum of Mankind in La Coruna, the Palafolls Sports Complex Pavilion, the Caixa Forum entrance, Bilbao Housing, a floor at the hotel Puerta America in Madrid, a private vila and the last one was the office blocks in Barcelona.

“We had to work within a module and try to design a five-star luxurious room within that tiny space. There were many architects and designers that were invited to participate in this project like Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Mariscal who also designed a floor, two fashion designers from Sevilla whose design approach had an excessive use of fabric and Ron Arad that made his assigned floor like an aircraft cabin etc.”

[Toshiaki Tange referring to the Hotel Silken Puerta America Madrid]

As the years go by, the times are changing and the economical restraints are even greater. This is something that keeps influencing every architectural office. Toshiaki Tange gave us some insides on how it affects their office too, by using the example of their five office-block project shared with Alejandro Saera, a big scale and complicated project, where only two out of the five building blocks had been built.

The key project that the office is currently working on, is the interior of the museum that many refer to as the biggest archeological museum in the world, located next to the pyramid of Giza. The project is now under development. It's inauguration is speculated for 2015, quite impossible for such a huge project as Toshiaki Tange tells us!



arata isozaki_bcn.jpg

arata isozaki_bcn_3.jpg

arata isozaki_bcn_2.jpg

There are six employees at the office in Barcelona, whose work is mainly focused on physical model-making and digital design. Having a tour at the office,we had the chance to enter the model-making room as well as the storage room, where you could see numerous models; some of them being the final presentation models, others in progress and many decomposed or semi-deconstructed.



arata isozaki_bcn_4.jpg

arata isozaki_bcn_5.jpg

“In the realm of construction, the dynamic process should include not only building but also constant decomposition and dissolution, just as the mechanism of sustaining life includes the programmed self destruction of genes...”

[Arata Isozaki, “On Ruins”, Lotus International n.93, June 1997]