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  Name   Itsuko Hasegawa (長谷川 逸子)
  Born   1941
  Nationality   Japan
  Official website   www.ihasegawa.com/en

Itsuko Hasegawa stands virtually alone among Japanese archi tects in her attempts to develop a critical practice. From her earliest work, Hasegawa addressed the manner in which public buildings are designed and programmed, eschewing bureaucratic directives in favor of a public process. As she matured, other themes also emerged, especially a concern for the environment and for the disenfranchised: women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and the homeless. Although some of these issues remain incompletely realized in her work, their introduction into profes sional discourse in Japan is significant.

Ironically, Hasegawa was educated by one of the nation’s leading formalists, Kazuo Shinohara. In 1969, she entered his graduate studio at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and she remained with him as his assistant until 1978. Many of Japan’s critics note today that their understanding of the master pre vented them from initially understanding Hasegawa’s approach.

Furthermore, Hasegawa often used building materials as a tool to achieve her agenda, drawing attention to the materials rather than their purpose. This is most apparent in her debut project, the widely acclaimed Shonandai Culture Center, won by competition in 1986 and built just outside Tokyo. Hasega wa’s earlier projects were almost exclusively residential, and she brought to Shonandai the same concern for client input and attention to detail. The 14,315-square-meter complex (which includes a children’s museum) remains highly accessible through the use of tiles embedded with animals’ footprints, constellations of mirrored fragments implanted in walls, and marbles scattered across punched-metal ceilings.

Punched metal was also significant in framing her initial repu tation. She first used it in the House at Kuwahara (1980), de signed for a metals supplier, and the commodity quickly became ubiquitous in the arsenal of Tokyo's trendiest designers. She followed this with explorations of various transparent and trans lucent surfaces in the late 1980s, anticipating trends that would emerge internationally ten years later by stretching fabric into bulbous shapes, projecting light onto frosted glass, layering poly carbonate skins, and choreographing reflected light.

Hasegawa’s position as an iconoclast may be rooted in differ ence. She was one of only a handful of women architects in Japan and stood virtually alone in her international acclaim and her alliance with the small cadre of architects shaping the profes sion. Although she exploited this status, using her position as a bully pulpit, a heavy schedule of lecturing and teaching abroad has also prevented her from engaging fully with the opportunities of Japan’s construction process. As a result, her buildings lack the refinement and attention to detail found in much of the work from Japan. Although it may be that Hasegawa felt liberated by the deliberately rough detailing found in Shinohara’s architec ture from the late 1980s, her own approach is less clearly com- mitted to one position or the other, having areas of refinement and delicacy juxtaposed with roughly executed components.

Hasegawa calls the materials and form of architecture “hard ware” and feels that this side has been overemphasized to the detriment of architectural “software.” In particular, her efforts lie in developing a richly rendered set of sensory experiences, apprehended by moving along multiple pathways. In publica tions, her descriptions often attempt to deliver something that photography cannor, calling attention to rising tides and flicker ing light ot to the sound of the wind, the cool touch of water, and the emergence of a view along a rising path.

For Hasegawa, architecture essentially acts as a constructed form of landscape or, in her words, “a new nature.” With Toyo Tk ass red he dee Jaren cityscape as a form of nature, to be celebrated. She often refers to her buildings as hills, and in her most recent large-scale work, the Niigata City Performing Arts Center (1998), she established the roof as a city park. Ata smaller scale, Hasegawa introduces the texture of landscape in her work by mixing soil into mortar finishes or setting stones and shells in the surfaces of walkways and pools.

This is not done arbitrarily. Hasegawa strives to awaken what she sees as the latent memories of nature possessed by each site, embracing accidental or dormant qualities over rational exposi tion. Botond Bognar quotes Hasegawa as saying that she wants to “accept those things that had been rejected by the spirit of rationalism—the translucent world of emotions and the supple and comfortable space woven by nature—and to create a land- scape filled with a new form of nature where devices enable one to hear the strange music of the universe” (Bognar, 157). This gives her work an instinctual character that is particularly un common in public works, the bulk of her output.

Since completing the Shonandai Culture Center in 1990, Hasegawa’s office also produced the Sumida Culture Factory (1994), the Oshima Machi Picture Book Museum in Imizu (1994), the Museum of Fruit (1995) in Yamanashi, the Himi Seaside Botanical Garden (1996), and the previously mentioned Niigata City Performing Arts Center—extraordinary output for her tiny office. Hasegawa has also taken on several underfunded typologies, designing public housing—the Takuma Housing Project (1992), the Namekawa Housing Project (1998), and Imai Newtown Housing (1998)—and two small, rural elementary schools—Busshouji Elementary (1994) and Kaiho Elementary (1996).

In her most recent discussions, it is clear that Hasegawa feels frustrated in her attempts to reshape the character of Japan’s public architecture, In particular, she has begun to question the scale and underutilization of museums, performing arts centers, and other large-scale facilities intended by government authori ties as chic urban outposts, attempts to staunch population losses from small communities to the more dynamic Tokyo. Hasegawa has come to believe that these structures are rarely embraced by the local community despite her best efforts to reshape the buildings’ programming. Instead, she has begun to call for inte grated efforts drawn from local traditions and the rhythm of the community. If she is able to cajole local governments into considering this approach, she will have considerable effect on the life and texture of Japan’s smaller cities.



Sennott R.S. Encyclopedia of twentieth century architecture, Vol.2.  Fitzroy Dearborn., 2005.


Born Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, 1941.

Graduated from Kanto Gakuin architecture program with a bachelor’s in 1964 and studied in the Shinohara lab at Tokyo Institute of Technology from 1969 to 1971, afterward becoming Shinohara’s assistant in the lab.

Hasegawa worked for the Metabolist Kiyonori Kikutake from 1964 to 1969, between her graduate and undergraduate studies.

Established Itsuko Hasegawa Atelier in 1979. She teaches regularly at Waseda University and Tokyo Institute of Technology and has been a visiting professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Selected awards include the Building Constructors Society Award for Shonandai Culture Center in 1992, a design award from the Architectural Institute of Japan for Bizan Hall in 1986, the Japan Cultural Design Award in 1986, and the Japan Art Academy Prize in 2000.


Hasegawa's unique position as a woman practicing architecture in Japan has drawn significant attention to her work, and there are several good monographs available on her in English. Most include essays that draw attention to the theoretic positions she has taken. Like many of Japan's practitioners, however, Hasegawa writes little beyond simple descriptive statements, reserving discussions of the reasons behind the work for lectures. Botond Bognar and Koji Taki are two of Hasegawa's most sympathetic critics.

Architectural Monographs No. 31: Itsuko Hasegawa , London: Academy Group, 1993 (Sometimes Hasegawa is listed as author.)

Bognár, Botond, The New Japanese Architecture, New York: Rizzoli, 1990

The Complete Work of Itsuko Hasegawa , Tokyo: Space Deige, Kajima Institute of Publishing, 1985

Dobney, Stephen (editor), The Master Architect Series II: Itsuko Hasegawa , Selected and Current Works.Mulgrave, Victoria: The Images Publishing Company, 1997

Hasegawa, Itsuko, "A Search for New Concepts through Filtering My Life in Tokyo" and "Sumida Metaphorical Townscape, Tokyo," Architectural Design No. 99- Japanese Architecture 2, London: Academy Group, 1992

Itsuko Hasegawa , 1985- 1995, Spate Deign, 11 (374). Tokyo: Kajima Institute of Publishing, 1995

Itsuko Hasegawa : Recent Buildings and Projects, Basel: Birkhäuser/ Institute Fraçais d'Architecture, 1997

"Opening up a New Architecture Scene through Communication." Kenchika Bunkat, special issue on Hasegawa  (January 1993), includes an essay by Koji Taki












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