Originally from South Korea, architect Toyo Ito gained fame through a wide range of project work in Japan. Architect Ito was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold medal, one of the most prized honours in the field of Architecture on 15th February 2006. This medal is believed to be personally approved by the Queen and is given to an influential individual or a group of influential individuals annually, recognizing their lifetime achievement in creating an international impact in the field of Architecture. This rightly describes the words of Jack Pringle, the then president of RIBA president, who referred to Toyo Ito as “an inspiration for generations of architects worldwide”.

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Toyo Ito_ ©metalocus.es

Toyo Ito’s Ideology

Toyo was greatly inspired by Purist Architecture, one of the early modernist movements and believed in the direct use of readily and easily available industrial materials by removing the conventional meaning from his work through minimalist tactics. In doing so, he found architecture which reflected nature with its organic geometries, trying to create peaceful and joyful spaces full of life in the interiors. His works are a unique amalgamation of nature and technology portraying the factors affecting everyday life in Japan. Many of his designs with fluid spaces had a unique structural system without any internal walls, inspiring and having a great impact on the younger generation of architects. It was after the successful completion of the Aluminium House which he designed for his widowed sister, that he attracted attention from the architecture world towards himself.

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Model of The Aluminium House_ ©architracker.co

Ito’s most popular works

His most famous aesthetic design of lightweight permeable membranes consisting of fabric, expanded metal sheets and perforated aluminium panels was developed as it was believed to be suitable for the increasing mobile and informal lifestyle of urban areas. The use of these aluminium membranes can be seen in the Tower of the Winds in Yokohama, designed by Ito, where the lights embellishing the structure responded to mere nature by changing its colours and patterns corresponding to the wind speed and sound waves. This building is a visual treat to the visitors as during the day it reflects its surroundings with its reflective panels and at night it reciprocates the effects of nature.

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The Tower of Winds_ ©m.blog.naver.com

Drawing inspiration from nature, the reflection of the undulating roof of Meiso no Mori Municipal Hall in Kakamigahara on the still water shows the theme of water that has been used in the roof to connect to its surrounding nature.

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Meiso no Mori Municipal Funeral Hall_ ©lightdesign.jp

PictureSimilar is the case of Tod’s Building in Tokyo, where the façade of the building resembles the shapes of swaying trees as an image of the presence of the surrounding trees and urban design. The significance of nature is highlighted in all of Ito’s projects by establishing a strong connection with the surrounding landscape of every site.

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Tod’s Building_ ©urbannext.net

His designs not only connected with nature effortlessly but also addressed nature-based threats such as earthquakes. Japan, a country prone to these natural disasters, Toyo Ito’s Sendai Mediatheque survived the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, as the project was designed with a particular focus on the structural system.

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Sendai Mediatheque_ ©dezeen.com

Toyo also introduced another dimension of nature in Architecture which was its protection. One such example among his works is the Main Stadium for the World Games in Taiwan, where the project was built using re-useable materials. The stadium was incorporated with nine thousand solar panels on its roof making it environmentally sustainable.

Main Stadium for the World Games in Taiwan_ ©solaripedia.com


Ito was awarded for his varied, unique, and inspiring contributions in the field of Architecture. He won the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture in the year 2000 followed by the World Architecture Awards in the year 2002 for the title ‘Best Building in Asia’ for his project Sendai Mediatheque. In addition to this, he received an Honorary Diploma from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. Later, he won the award for the best pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012 for presenting the design for an alternative housing solution for those who lost their homes due to the Earthquake in Tohoku. In subsequent years, Ito bagged the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2013) and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2016.

Being recognized and appreciated for his truly inspiring masterpieces it is no wonder that the students of Architecture from across the globe look up to him and are in awe of his creations. Having this in mind, Ito wanted to educate the young minds and connect with them further. He began the “cram” school to motivate the younger generation of architects and school kids in Tokyo, followed by the workshops at the Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture in Ehime, which offered the possibility for young architects to gain knowledge by studying closely the models of this work. Ito remains truly an inspiration for many architects for years to come. 


  1. The Architects’ Journal. 2005. Toyo Ito wins RIBA Royal Gold Medal. [online] Available at: <https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/toyo-ito-wins-riba-royal-gold-medal>
  2. Petrunia, P., 2005. Toyo Ito wins Royal Gold Medal. [online] Archinect. Available at: <https://archinect.com/news/article/25910/toyo-ito-wins-royal-gold-medal>
  3. Famous Architects. n.d. Toyo Ito Architect | Biography, Buildings, Projects and Facts. [online] Available at: <https://www.famous-architects.org/toyo-ito
  4. Baxter, L., 2018. Innovative, influential and ingenious: Toyo Ito and his impact on Japanese architecture | REthink Tokyo – Real Estate Information for Buyers and Investors. [online] REthink Tokyo – Real Estate Information for Buyers and Investors. Available at: <https://www.rethinktokyo.com/2018/05/02/toyo-ito-and-his-impact-japanese-architecture> 

An architecture student who believes that any space can be turned into a lively environment only when it caters to its user’s needs and is extremely passionate about walking the cities on its journey in becoming sustainable and inclusive for its people.