• News
  • Jun 14, 2024

Fumihiko Maki, 1928–2024

Portrait of FUMIHIKO MAKI at MIT Media Lab, 2010. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

On June 6, Fumihiko Maki, a Japanese architect esteemed for his fusion of modernism with traditional architecture, passed away at age 95 in his Tokyo home, his office Maki and Associates announced. The 1993 Pritzker Prize laureate was internationally renowned for his adaptive, elegant, and understated approach to design.

Maki was born in Tokyo in 1928. He studied under modernist Kenzo Tange at the University of Tokyo, where he completed his bachelor of architecture degree in 1952. He then trained at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan before earning his second master’s degree from Harvard University. After graduating, he held positions at the Chicago architecture firm SOM and Sert Jackson and Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts; he was later named assistant professor of architecture at Washington University. In 1960, Maki received his first commission to design the university’s Steinberg Hall before serving as a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. 

Maki returned to Japan in 1965 to set up his own architecture firm. Guided by Tange’s mentorship, he cofounded the avant-garde Metabolism movement with Kiyonori Kikutake, Kisho Kurokawa, and Noboru Kawazoe. Combining techno-utopia architectural discourse and a philosophy of change, Metabolism proposes a new form of compact urbanism distinguished by its concentration on modular and adaptable structures, reminiscent of organic processes of growth. 

Throughout his career, Maki realized architectural projects across Japan, the United States, Switzerland, China, India, and beyond that exemplify his long-held interest in experimenting with new technology and techniques. For the Osaka Prefectural Sports Center (1972), Maki brought together distinct physical spaces along a central axis, reminiscent of a multi-leveled street, that enable visitors to look across a stratification of transparent planes from various vantage points within the structure. His celebrated design for the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto (1986) included exterior walls formed by a grid of Portuguese granite, creating a refined and symmetrical facade.  For the Hillside Terrace Complex (1969–92), a series of courtyards, greenery, and residential spaces were intricately connected through the layering of threshold spaces, creating an illusion of distance and imparting a sense of depth and intimacy within the compact urban setting. 

Maki’s most well-known international projects include the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco (1993), as well as the MIT Media Lab extension (2009), the latter of which opened to widespread acclaim. The seven-story building boasted a sophisticated floating structure of glass and metal rods to uphold interlocking double-height spaces, designed with transparent partitions to encourage open interactions. Maki also designed the 72-story 4 World Trade Center in New York City in 2013. More recently, Maki and his team were the creative forces behind the cultural museum Design Society (2017) in Shenzhen, and the Aga Khan Center (2018) educational complex in King's Cross, London. 

A passionate educator, Maki taught architecture at the University of Tokyo until 1987, then continued to lecture extensively in Japan, the United States, and Europe. His collection of essays, Nurturing Dreams, which chronicles the evolution of architectural modernism, was published in 2008. In 2011, the American Institute of Architects awarded Maki its most esteemed recognition, the AIA Gold Medal, in honor of his contributions to the field.

Mioie Kwok is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific. 

Subscribe to ArtAsiaPacific’s free weekly newsletter with all the latest news, reviews, and perspectives, directly to your inbox each Monday.