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R E 4c

4With the 102nd International Women’s Day being celebrated globally on March 8, it is appropriate to pay tribute to the Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima, one of the world’s leading purveyors of modern architecture.

Despite a long list of achievements to her name (which include winning the prestigious Pritzker Prize and being the first female architect to curate the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010), Sejima unlike her contemporaries such as Zaha Hadid, shies away from the limelight.
As an article in The Japan Times recently noted, it is only in the last few years that she has “finally begun to emerge… and present the world with the tangible fruits of her amazing architectural vision.”

Born in 1956, Sejima studied architecture at Japanese Women’s University, and went on to join the offices of Toyo Ito, one of the world’s foremost architects. In 1987, she began her own practice before co-founding SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates) in 1995.

With projects in Europe, Japan and the US, Sejima has made a name for herself with designs that involve slick, clean and shiny surfaces made of glass, marble and a variety of metals. The style is especially evident in the designs for the New Museum in New York and the glass pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art.

Sejima uses large spans of glass to allow natural light to enter her buildings and the interiors to interact with the building’s surroundings. It is from this connection of the interior with the exterior that she draws her inspiration for design – an aesthetic especially evident in her latest project, The Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland, where large glass walls interact with the landscape creating vistas both inside and outside.

In essence, Sejima’s projects resonate sensitivity but their spatial attributes do not strive to make bold statements in architecture. For this reason, Paolo Baratta, President of the Biennale, stated:

“Sejima is really the architect who refuses to conceive of architecture as a way of representing the power of somebody, or the money of somebody else, or the ambitions of the client. She instead comes back to an idea of architecture where functions, relations and the division of space are what matter.”

– Adil Kerai
The writer is an architect and partner, Habib Fida Ali Architects.

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 3, 2013.