Monday, March 29, 2010

Kazuyo Sejima

The winners for the Pritzker Prize for architecture were announced today. This story caught my eye because just yesterday I was on a trolley tour of downtown Chicago. My sister Mim was visiting and my roommate’s boyfriend, Brendan, got us tickets because he works as a tour guide. I often forget how beautiful the buildings really are downtown and how many people come to visit Chicago from all around the world. I love being reminded of how amazing it is here.  Spending time as a tourist makes you think about all the things that are easily taken for granted when you live in a place as awesome as this city.

Since I am trying to become as sensitive as possible to feminist issues in all areas of life, the coolest fact I learned from the tour is Chicago is home to the tallest "woman-designed" building in the world. The Aqua Tower is quite stunning and was created by Jeanne Gang. It makes me really proud to know that her design is in “my” city.  

Needless to say, I had architecture on the brain this morning as I perused, so when I came across the Pritzker Prize winners I had to take a closer look.

This year's winners are Japanese duo Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, leaders of the firm SANAA. It is a historic win because only one other pair has ever been recognized together and only one other woman has been honored with the prestigious award.

Their work is beautiful. Their buildings are really pushing design into the future, not only challenging the world of building and structure, but also how we exist physically with one another. Everything they do has an airy, fluid, openness, which they say forces us to question the idea of public space vs. private space. Their aim in building housing projects in densely packed Tokyo is to disrupt how we currently live together with our neighbors. The theory is that acknowledging those around us helps us to accept each other for better coexistence.  

New Museum of Contemporary
Art in NYC
SANAA Design
These are the kind of articles I love because they make me question things I’ve never even thought to consider when pondering what affects me daily. Even physical walls can cause societal barriers between people and how we relate to one another. SANAA’s mantra is to create buildings that feel like parks, where open space leads to openness within the walls of glass and light. I actually have thought about how different my day would feel if my desk faced a window or my cubicle “walls” didn’t feel so cave-like. Knowing that Kazuyo is working to expand our interiors, melting them into the outside world we so often take for granted, is exciting.

All achievement aside, whenever a woman is rewarded for innovation it can’t be ignored she is probably one of the first of her gender to be recognized. This is true of Kazuyo. Zaha Hadid was the first woman to win the prize back in 2004, so this is still a fresh accomplishment for women. In fact, back in 1991, there was some controversy when Robert Venturi was chosen as the sole recipient and not his close contributor Denise Scott Brown. But maybe ’91 was just “too soon” for a female to make her mark in architecture.

Kazuyo has had an impressive career. She holds visiting professorships at both Tama Art University and Keio University in Tokyo and along with her partner, Nishizawa, has a professorship at Princeton University. She is regarded as a visionary by her peers. It is quite significant to note Nishizawa speaks of their partnership in high regard. He says in the NPR interview that he is constantly influenced by her.

When asked about how she perceives this award as a woman, she says simply gender should not be influence its direct meaning to her or anyone else. She hopes this will influence more women to pursue careers in architecture and design. Such a humble way to accept such a great honor. Especially in a field that has previously been dominated by men.

As I mentioned earlier, my goal to is become more sensitive to women’s issues in all areas of life and I have realized that the best way for me to do this is by reading up on as much feminist literature as possible. I thought I would share some sites that I frequent if anyone else is interested in doing the same. I find that the more I expose myself to, the more “awakenings” I have in my day to day life. An example of this is the tour yesterday and thinking about architecture through a feminist lens which led me to this post about Kazuyo. (more political with great links to other blogs and sites) (more pop culture)
I also like to read Ms. Magazine, BUST Magazine, and BITCH Magazine for more articles pertaining to feminist culture. Everyone should read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, The Women’s Room by Marilyn French, and The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability by Laura Kipnis.

1 comment:

  1. Have you done the River tour? It's really interesting, with a great view of the Tower. Really interesting article...