Fumihiko Maki, considered Japan's most pre-eminent living architect, began his career in the 1960s as a charter member of the Metabolists, a group of Japanese architects who believed in the obsolescence of fixed forms and the endless possibilities offered by flexible and expandable modular structures.
The AIA Gold Medal is voted on annually, and honors an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.
Maki is the 67th AIA Gold Medalist and joins the ranks of such visionaries as Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Renzo Piano, I.M. Pei, Cesar Pelli, Santiago Calatrava and last year's recipient, Peter Bohlin, FAIA. In recognition of his legacy to architecture, his name will be chiseled into the granite Wall of Honor in the lobby of the AIA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
His approach to design is to assemble disparate collages of forms together in his buildings; abstract volumes as well as elemental shapes-spheres, cones, cubes, cylinders. His buildings are multifaceted juxtapositions of both discordant unity and synchronized disarray. The intent in binding varied forms together is to draw attention to the exposed links between these ensemble composition's individual elements and exploit them as dramatic and revelatory markers of time and place, full of immediacy and a bit of whimsy.
Maki has lived most of his life in Tokyo, though he studied in the United States (at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and at Cranbrook), and frequently teaches here, as well as in Japan. He has always maintained an Eastern influence in his work, often exhibited in his comfort with irrational, asymmetrical arrangements of space.
"He has a unique style of Modernism that is infused with an ephemeral quality and elegance which reflects his Japanese origin," wrote longtime colleague Toshiko Mori, FAIA, in her recommendation letter. "What stands out most about Mr. Maki is the consistent quality of his work at the highest caliber and the creation of ineffable atmospheres; his buildings convey a quiet and elegant moment of reflection."
Maki will be honored at the 2011 AIA National Convention in New Orleans.