Kazuyo Sejima

Kazuyo Sejima

The mentor

Published in 2013

Recognized as one of today’s most visionary and innovative architects, Kazuyo Sejima combines aesthetic simplicity with technical complexity in the critically acclaimed buildings she designs with Ryue Nishizawa, with whom she won the 2010 Pritzker Prize – architecture’s greatest honour.

Following her architectural studies at the Japan Women’s University and early work with architect Toyo Ito, Sejima formed her own firm, Kazuyo Sejima & Associates, in 1987. In 1995, three years after being named Japan’s 1992 Young Architect of the Year, she joined with Nishizawa to establish the Tokyo-based firm SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates).

Nearly a decade later, the practice came to world attention with the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, for which the partners won the Golden Lion at the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale. SANAA’s other groundbreaking works include New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London.

In 2010, a landmark year, Sejima was appointed as the first woman director of the architecture sector of the Venice Biennale, with specific responsibility for curating the exhibition. “Sejima comes back to an idea of architecture where functions, relations and the division of space are what matters,” says Venice Biennale President Paolo Baratta. “Her pared-down architecture is so functional, it’s lyrical.” The SANAA-designed Rolex Learning Center, a library and student complex at Lausanne’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, was opened to great acclaim, also in 2010.

More recently, SANAA completed the Louvre-Lens, an extension of the Louvre museum in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. In addition to designing her own buildings such as the Shibaura Building in Tokyo and the current Inujima Art House Project, Sejima lectures at leading universities in Japan and abroad.