Third Anniversary of Japan's Earthquake Prompts Esteemed Architect to Call for Return to Primal, Community-focused Architecture

The Power of Architecture: Toyo Ito’s Thoughts Post 3/11

Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 6:30 pm, at Japan Society


"Architecture is supposed to be something that links people to other people." -- Toyo Ito to ArchDaily
, 2013

New York, NY -- Since 2011 renowned architect Toyo Ito has been energetically dedicated to reconstruction in the tsunami-devastated Tohoku region of northeastern Japan. With over two hundred thousand people still living in temporary shelter, of particular note is his Home-for-All initiative, which creates innovative, environmentally sound communal spaces for townships affected and dislocated by the tsunami. Nine Home-for-All projects were completed by the end of 2013, with more on the way.

In their article "How architects are helping Japanese communities after the tsunami", the Financial Times writes that Home-for-All "is not about creating homes for individuals but a home for communities, a shelter for residents’ social life that the destruction of the city, the port and its infrastructure has denied them." Ito told FT that the project “is like a basic, idealistic way of building… It has meaning because everybody is involved."

On the 3rd anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Ito, awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2013, reflects on his current body of work, including the Home-for-All initiative, as well as his experience helping with recovery and reconstruction. Moderated by AIANY president Lance Jay Brown, the talk The Power of Architecture: Toyo Ito’s Thoughts Post 3/11 takes place March 11, 6:30 pm at Japan Society, and will be followed by a reception.

Speaking with the Asahi Shimbun, Ito noted that he had long thought about blurring the lines of outer and inner space, finding a relationship between people, townscape and nature. The events of 3/11 urged him to make these thoughts a reality. In Toyo Ito – Forces of Nature (Architectural Press), Ito says, "In the modern period, architecture has been rated highest for its originality. As a result, the most primal themes—why a building is made and for whom—have been forgotten. A disaster zone, where everything is lost offers the opportunity for us to take a fresh look, from the ground up, at what architecture really is. ‘Home-for-All’ may consist of small buildings, but it calls to the fore the vital question of what form architecture should take in the modern era—even calling into question the most primal themes, the very meaning of architecture..." (source).

In the talk Ito also examines what he sees as existing problems of modern architecture and how it can rediscover its power in the 21st century. In a statement to Japan Society (translated from Japanese), Ito said: "Modern Japanese architecture is single mindedly following in the footsteps of a weakening modernism aesthetic and thought process. That is to say, modern Japanese architecture feels like a refined noble culture at the end of a long period of peace that is proud of its frail beauty. I find it alarming if people consider this frail beauty to be the Japanese aesthetic because it is utterly impossible to think that something new will be created if we stay on our current course. We must break free from the current modernism aesthetic and thought processes. Isn’t it time to discover a new era of architecture through wild and primal thought?"

Toyo Ito graduated from the University of Tokyo, Department of Architecture in 1965. In 1971, he established his own office, Urban Robot (URBOT), which was renamed to Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects in 1979. His major works include the Sendai Mediatheque, TOD’S Omotesando Building, Tama Art University Library (Hachioji campus), The Main Stadium for the World Games 2009 in Kaohsiung (Taiwan R.O.C.), Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture, Imabari, etc. Under development are National Taiwan University, New College of Social Sciences (Taiwan R.O.C.), Minna-no-Mori Gifu Media Cosmos (tentative title), Taichung Metropolitan Opera House (Taiwan R.O.C.), and more. Awards and prizes include the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement from the 8th International Architecture Exhibition “NEXT” at the Venice Biennale, Royal Gold Medal from The Royal Institute of British Architects, 6th Austrian Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts, The 22nd Praemium Imperiale in Honor of Prince Takamatsu, The Pritzker Prize, etc. In addition to Home-for-All project, Ito established a small private architectural school ITO JUKU to foster young and talented architects.

Lance Jay Brown (presider), FAIA, DPACSA, 2014 AIANY President, is an architect, urban designer, educator, and author. He has lectured nationally and internationally. He is an ACSA Distinguished Professor in the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York, City University of New York. He has served as assistant director of the Design Arts Program at the NEA and advisor to the World Trade Center Site 9/11 International Memorial Design Competition. His numerous awards include: AIA New York State President’s Award for Excellence in Non‐traditional Architecture and AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. He is on the board of the AIANY Chapter, founding co‐chair of the AIA Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee, and founding Board member of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization. Publications include: Learning from Lower Manhattan (2004), Urban Design for an Urban Century: Placemaking for People (2009), Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space (2012) and The Legacy Project: New Housing New York: Best Practices in Affordable, Sustainable, Replicable Housing Design (Via Verde, Winter 2013).

The Power of Architecture: Toyo Ito’s Thoughts Post 3/11 takes place Tuesday, March 11 at 6:30 pm. Tickets: $12/$8 Japan Society members, seniors and students. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). Tickets are $12/$8 Japan Society members, seniors and students, and may be purchased in person at Japan Society, at, or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258. For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit the website.

Lecture Programs at Japan Society are generously sponsored by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Japan Airlines is the exclusive Japanese Airlines sponsor of Lecture Programs at Japan Society. United Airlines is the exclusive U.S. Airlines sponsor of Lecture Programs at Japan Society. Additional support is provided by Chris A. Wachenheim, and the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund.

# # #

Media Contacts:
Shannon Jowett, 212-715-1205,
Kuniko Shiobara, 212-715-1249,

Calendar of Events

June 2020

S M T W Th F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        
All content © 2020, Japan Society, unless otherwise noted. |
333 East 47th Street New York, NY 10017 Phone: 212.832.1155 |
Credits | Press | Contact Us | Privacy Policy