Architect Fumihiko Maki (born 1928) came to prominence in the 1960s, a period of growth and vibrancy in Japanese architecture.
Although still identified with the classic modernism of the International Style, he moved on to create more complicated and ambiguous buildings that relate to the contemporary movement known as Deconstruction. His high-profile designs include the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Kyoto, and the Nippon Convention Center. In the United States his work includes Washington University's Steinberg Hall Art Center, St. Louis, MO, and the Yerba Buena Gardens Visual Arts Center in San Francisco, CA. He has won several honors—including the 1993 Pritzker Architecture Prize and the Union Internationale des Architectes (UIA) Gold Medal Prize.
Fumihiko Maki was born in Tokyo in 1928 and was raised there. After graduating from the University of Tokyo in 1952 with a degree in architecture, Maki pursued graduate work in the United States. He studied at Michigan's Cranbrook Academy and at Harvard University, where he received a master's degree from the Graduate School of Design. After completing his formal education in the mid-1950s, Maki worked first as a designer for the large and successful commercial firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill in New York, and then went on to teach at various academic institutions, including Washington University (St. Louis, MO), Harvard University, and the University of Tokyo. Upon his return to Japan he established his own architectural firm, Maki and Associates.
Never content to simply write or talk about architecture, Fumihiko Maki was an active designer throughout his professional life. About his desire to build, he remarked: "I do not want to put my thoughts only on the level of drawings and models. I am a fairly pragmatic sort of practitioner and I want to express these thoughts in real buildings."
At the beginning of his career, Maki's designs reflected his Modernist education in the United States: his Toyota Memorial Hall at Nagoya University (1960), the Hillside Terrace House Project, Tokyo (1969), and the Kanazawa Municipal Center, Yokohama (1971), are representative of this early phase. For example, for the series of undecorated, cube-like structures of Hillside Terrace Maki initially chose to stress unity, simplicity, and harmony in a group of individual buildings. As with virtually all of his early buildings, Maki's Hillside Terrace is built of modern materials, including steel and concrete.
Maki was associated with the Japanese architectural movement of the 1960s called Metabolism. In 1960 he contributed to an early publication on that subject (much as the celebrated American architect Philip Johnson helped "write the book" on the International Style in the 1920s). The Metabolist idea that buildings should respond to a changing world seems to have had a profound impact on Maki's work while he matured as an architect. Further, beginning in the 1980s Fumihiko Maki took a more overtly eclectic approach to design, and his designs during this period appear more harmonious with the contemporary world, and particularly with the nature of the modern city.
This later trend is exemplified by a commercial building in Tokyo known as "The Spiral" (1985). A succession of complicated and fragmented spaces and forms, The Spiral pays tribute to the densely-built urban environment of Tokyo—the city Maki knew best. A remark he made about "The Spiral"—"First I decompose the elements and then recompose"—suggests his comfort and familiarity with the contemporary movement called Deconstruction.
Maki generally avoided the approach of the Post-Modernists, however, seeking instead to affirm his Modernist roots in works that acknowledge place without evoking styles of the past. At Tokyo's Keio University he created a new library building (1981) in which he chose not to mimic the Victorian architecture of the neighboring old library. His salmon-pink, tile-covered cubic structure, with the majority of its usable space buried underground, unites in color and scale with the older structure but does not attempt to make the connection between old and new.
Maki's Modernist roots appear in another aspect of his architecture: the wedding of form and function. Speaking of his Fujisawa Gymnasium (1984) in particular, and of his work in general, he said: "I think ambiguity in the meanings of forms is quite interesting. However, coming back to the architects' responsibility to society, you cannot just play a game either. You must satisfy certain basic requirements. I would say that architecture has to be able to accommodate these needs." The Fujisawa Gymnasium nevertheless houses with ease all the activities that are required of a suburban school gymnasium.
Maki also designed Maki House, at the Children's Village in Oswiecim, Poland, and Izar-Buro Park, Munich, Germany.
He has written extensively, often about his own work. His writing includes: "Yerba Buena Gardens Visual Arts Center" The Japan Architect (Aug./Sept. 1990); "TEPIA" The Japan Architect (Aug./Sept. 1990); "Fumihiko Maki" GA Document No. 25 (1990); "Driving Forces of the 1990s" The Japan Architect (Spring 1991); "Swimming and Diving Hall, Cycling Hall for Berlin Olympics 2000: Design Competition Proposal" The Japan Architect (Summer 1992); "The Tokyo Design Center" Domus (Nov. 1992); "Fumihiko Maki" Architectural Design (Sept./Oct. 1992); "New Congress Center, Salzburg, Austria" GA Document No. 36 (1993); "Space, Image and Materiality" The Japan Architect (Winter 1994); "Notes on Collective Form" The Japan Architect (Winter 1994); "Public Architecture for a New Age" Places (Cambridge, MA, Summer 1994); "Fumihiko Maki" GA Document No. 39 (1994); "Winners in the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1994" The Japan Architect (Spring 1995); "Fumihiko Maki" Casabella (Jan./Feb. 1996); and "Stillness and Plenitude" The Japan Architect (Spring 1996).
Fumihiko Maki has been honored with a variety of national and international awards and fellowships. Among the most prestigious of these were the Japan Institute of Architects' Award (1985); the American Institute of Architects' Reynolds Award (1987); the Thomas Jefferson Medal of Architecture (1990); the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1993); and the Union Internationale des Architectes (UIA) Gold Medal Prize (1993).
Further Reading on Fumihiko Maki
To learn more about Japanese architecture in general, consult David Stewart's The Making of a Modern Japanese Architecture: 1868 to the Present (Harper & Row, 1987); and Suzuki and Banham's Contemporary Architecture of Japan, 1958-1984 (Rizzoli, 1985). Interesting monographs covering Maki's work include Dale Casper's Fumihiko Maki: Master Architect (Vance, 1988); and Maki, Isozaki: New Public Architecture (Japan Society, 1985). Fumihiko Maki: An Aesthetic of Fragmentation (Rizzoli, 1988) by Serge Salat is also engaging. In Japan Architect (March 1987) there is a lively and revealing interview with Maki conducted by Roger Connah, and that issue is devoted almost entirely to Maki and provides a look at the architect from the perspective of the Japanese artistic community. See also Botond Bognar, The New Japanese Architecture (Rizzoli, 1990); and James Steele, ed., Museum Builders (St. Martin's Press, 1994).
The following periodicals contain discussions of Fumihiko Maki: "Two Landmarks for Tokyo" Progressive Architecture (Aug. 1990); Naomi R. Pollock, "Children's Village Includes Maki House" Architectural Record (June 1992); "That Certain Japanese Lightness" The Economist (Aug. 22, 1992); Kurt Andersen, "From the Sublime to the Meticulous" Time (May 3, 1993); Suzanne Muchnic, "Japan's Fumihiko Maki Wins Coveted Pritzker Prize" Los Angeles Times (April 26, 1993); John Morris Dixon, "Fumihiko Maki Wins Pritzker and UIA Prizes" Progressive Architecture (May 1993); Susannah Temko, "Maki, Polshek, and Botta Buildings to Bloom at Yerba Buena Gardens" Architectural Record (Aug. 1993); Eva M. Kahn, "Sailing Along the Cutting Edge" The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 3, 1993); and Naomi R. Pollock, "Silver Palette" Architectural Record (March 1994).
The following articles appear in the Winter 1994 issue of Japan Architect: P. Polledri, "A Modern Building for Post-Modern Art—Fumihiko Maki Center-for-the-Arts at Yerba-Buena Gardens" K. Ackerman, "Place, Scale and Transparency—Izar-Buro Park, Munich, Germany, by Fumihiko Maki" D.B. Stewart, "Apollo in the Age of Deconstruction, Concert Hall and Graduate Research Center by Fumihiko Maki" J.L. Cohen, "The Recent Work of Fumihiko Maki, Beyond the Fragment, Time Regained" and Y. Teramatsu, "Fumihiko Maki—Project Data, Profile and Publications." See also: P. Chow, "Tokyo Evolution—Fumihiko Maki Scheme for Hillside Terrace Mixed Development" Architectural Review (June 1995); Naomi R. Pollock, "A Quiet Sanctuary by the Highway: Tokyo Church of Christ, Tokyo Japan, Fumihiko Maki and Associates—Architect" Architectural Record (Oct. 1996).