SANAA named winner of the Praemium Imperiale 2022 for architecture

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The founders of Japanese architecture studio SANAA, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, have been named winners of this year’s Praemium Imperiale Architecture Awards by the Japan Art Association.

The Praemium Imperiale is an annual awards program that celebrates leading creators in the fields of architecture, sculpture, music, painting, and theater or film.

SANAA founders Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa won the Praemium Imperiale 2022 for architecture

Japanese architects Sejima and Nishizawa have been shortlisted for the 2022 Praemium Imperiale Architecture Prize in recognition of their work, which the Japan Art Association says has “subverted conventional hierarchical design in favor of a more open form of architecture. inclusive”.

They join an illustrious list of architects who have already won the prize, including Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid.

Aerial view of SANAA's 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa
One of SANAA’s first major projects was the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa

Sejima and Nishizawa were born in Japan in 1956 and 1966, respectively. Sejima studied to become an architect at Japan Women’s University, before working for Toyo Ito and Associates.

She started her own firm Kazuyo Sejima & Associates in 1987, where she employed Nishizawa when he was an architecture student at Yokohama National University.

Exterior of the new Museum of Contemporary Art in the United States by SANAA
The studio also created the New Museum of Contemporary Art in the United States. The photo is by Dean Kaufman

The duo founded their Tokyo-based studio SANAA in 1995 and catapulted into the limelight with projects such as the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, which they designed in 2004.

Other notable studio projects include the New Museum of Contemporary Art in the United States, the Louvre-Lens Museum in France and more recently the New Urban Campus of Bocconi University in Italy.

Exterior of the Louvre-Lens museum of SANAA in France
SANAA is at the origin of the Louvre-Lens Museum in France. Photo is by Hisao Suzuki, courtesy of SANAA, Imrey Culbert and C Mosbach

The duo has received numerous awards, including the famous 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize and the 2006 Architectural Institute of Japan Prize.

SANAA is currently working on the modern Sydney project – an extension of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia – and a cloud-like structure for the Shenzhen Maritime Museum.

Outside of SANAA, architects are also designers in their own right, with Sejima recently creating a commuter train with giant windows and a collection of multipurpose bags for Prada.

The Praemium Imperiale Awards were inaugurated in 1988 and have been awarded since 1989 by the Imperial Family of Japan.

Exterior of the new urban campus of Bocconi University in Italy
One of its main projects is the new urban campus of Bocconi University in Italy. Photo courtesy of SANAA

Other winners of this year’s awards include Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who received the sculpture award.

Each of the winners receives 15 million yen, the equivalent of £100,000.

Sydney modern project aerial view
The architects are currently expanding the Sydney Modern Project. Visual courtesy of SANAA/Art Gallery of New South Wales

Last year Australian architect Glenn Murcutt was awarded the Praemium Imperiale architecture, becoming the first Australian to win the Praemium Imperiale.

In the citation, the Japan Art Association describes him as an “architect ahead of his time”.

Photography is courtesy of The Japan Art Association/The Sankei Shimbun, except where noted.

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