Riken Yamamoto, noted for his socially aware designs that encourage community, was awarded the Pritzker Prize, the world’s highest achievement in architecture, on Tuesday.

Yamamoto is the ninth Japanese architect to receive the honor in the award’s 45-year history, making Japan again the country with the most Pritzker laureates, followed by the U.S.

The last recipient of the prize from Japan was Arata Isozaki in 2019. The award is given annually to a living architect or architects for their contributions to the field.

“For me, to recognize space, is to recognize an entire community,” said Yamamoto in a news release. “The current architectural approach emphasizes privacy, negating the necessity of societal relationships. However, we can still honor the freedom of each individual while living together in architectural space as a republic, fostering harmony across cultures and phases of life.”

Nagoya Zokei University
Nagoya Zokei University | Courtesy of Shinkenchiku Sha

In the same release, Alejandro Aravena, Pritzker jury chair and recipient of the 2016 prize, wrote: “One of the things we need most in the future of cities is to create conditions through architecture that multiply the opportunities for people to come together and interact. By carefully blurring the boundary between public and private, Yamamoto contributes positively beyond the brief to enable community.”

Yamamoto was born in 1945 in Beijing and resides in Yokohama. Many of his designs are dense and sprawling, containing a multitude of grids. By contrast, one of his earliest works, the 1997 Yamakawa Villa in Nagano, is a serene weekend house isolated in nature.

Yamakawa Villa
Yamakawa Villa | Courtesy of Tomio Ohashi