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Japan's Fumihiko Maki Wins Coveted Pritzker Prize : Design: He is cited for 'building works that . . . are destined to survive mere fashion.' The $100,000 prize will be awarded June 10 in Prague.


Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, who is revered for fusing cultural elements of the East and the West in meticulously designed modernist buildings, has won the 1993 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The coveted award, known as the Nobel of architecture, includes a $100,000 grant and a medal, which will be presented on June 10 at Prague Castle in the recently formed Czech Republic.

A versatile designer of light-filled residential spaces and imaginative public facilities--which critics have likened to spaceships or Samurai helmets--Maki has described architectural creation as "a cultural act in response to the common imagination or vision of the time."

Citing his belief that an architect's responsibility is "to leave behind buildings that are assets to culture," the Pritzker jury lauded Maki for "building works that are not only expressions of his time, but that are destined to survive mere fashion."

Maki, 64, was recuperating from gallbladder surgery in Tokyo and could not be reached for comment, but members of the jury praised his work.

"Maki is superbly deserving of the prize," said J. Carter Brown, director emeritus of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and chairman of the Pritzker jury. "He is one of the few architects working today who combines a sensitivity to materials with an understanding of architecture as an aesthetic statement. This, together with an extraordinary command over the engineering and technical aspects of the art, shows a real master at work."

Los Angeles architect Frank O. Gehry, who won the Pritzker in 1989 and joined the eight-member jury this year, characterized Maki as a gifted colleague whose work looks new even though it is not avant-garde. "His sense of detail, play with light and interpretation of Japanese culture into modern architecture are very strong," Gehry said.

"I recently went to Japan and saw his new addition to a building he had done 25 years ago," Gehry said, referring to Hillside Terrace, a mixed-use complex in Tokyo. "That's playing against your own rules, and I was very impressed with how Maki handled it. It is staggeringly beautiful," he said. Another recent Maki building that impressed Gehry was the Nippon Convention Center near Tokyo. "It's so huge and yet so humane and accessible," he said.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was established in 1979, is named for the family of Jay A. Pritzker, chairman of Hyatt Corp., whose international business interests are based in Chicago. Each year the prize honors a living architect whose combination of talent, vision and commitment is judged to have made a significant contribution to the field.

Maki is the 16th Pritzker laureate and the second Japanese architect to win the award. A student of Kenzo Tange (the first Japanese Pritzker winner, who landed the prize in 1987), Maki came of age with a new wave of Japanese architects who created an experimental modernist style.

After completing undergraduate work in architecture at the University of Tokyo, he traveled to the United States and earned masters degrees in architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and at Harvard University. His first commission was at Washington University in St. Louis, where he designed Steinberg Hall, an arts center, while serving as an assistant professor of architecture.

He returned to Japan in 1965 and established his own firm, Maki and Associates, in Tokyo. During the last 28 years he has fulfilled major commissions in Japan, including Tokyo's National Museum of Modern Art, the Fujisawa Municipal Gymnasium, the YKK Guest House in Kurobe and the Toyoda Memorial Hall Auditorium at Nagoya University.

Maki's second building in the United States, the Yerba Buena Gardens Visual Arts Center in San Francisco, is scheduled to open this fall. An office building complex for Isar Buro Park near Munich, to be completed in 1994, is his first European project.

Los Angeles has no buildings by Maki, but he was a finalist in the J. Paul Getty Trust's 1984 architectural competition for the Getty Center, currently under construction in Brentwood.

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