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Joseph Y. Fujikawa (1922-2003)

Dates of Interview:

September 13, 1983

Location of Interview:

Fujikawa's office in Chicago


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

43 pages
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Biographical Summary

Joseph Fujikawa was born in 1922 in Los Angeles, California. He began his study of architecture in 1940 at the University of Southern California and completed his undergraduate degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1944. He also completed a master's degree under Mies van der Rohe at IIT. In 1944 Fujikawa began his career in the Office of Mies van der Rohe. In 1976, some years after Mies's death, the name of the firm was changed to Fujikawa, Conterato, Lohan & Associates. In 1982 Fujikawa joined Gerald Johnson in founding Fujikawa Johnson & Associates. Throughout his career Fujikawa remained devoted to the Miesian vocabulary. He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1979. Fujikawa died in Winnetka, Illinois, in 2003.

Interview Highlights

Fujikawa speaks about his interrupted study at the University of Southern California; study with Mies van der Rohe; comparing study at IIT with study at UCLA; Mies's Office; Promontory Apartments; Federal Center; Herb Greenwald: developer and client; Office of Mies van der Rohe and beyond.

Federal Center; Chicago, 1959-1974.

Illinois Center; Chicago, begun 1967. Photo by John Zukowsky.

Interview Excerpt

"In problem solving, Mies always took the approach of not jumping to a solution or an answer immediately. That would disturb him tremendously, because he'd say, 'Well, what have I forgotten?' So his approach in problem solving, which we used so much, was to say, 'Well, what else is possible? Regardless of how bad you think it might be, put it on paper.' He constantly said, 'We'll put them all down. If you have six possibilities, put them all down. If you have ten, put them down. Whatever you think is possible, try it.' If you had an idea, all he'd say was, 'Try it.' You know, he gave you that freedom. Then by a process of elimination, we'd line them all up and say, 'This one is better than that one because...,' so that one goes out. Pretty soon you might end up, hopefully, with one or two good possibilities, and then he would say, 'Well, let's take it another step and see which is better, this one or this one.' So that was his whole process of working on design problems in architecture." (p. 6)

Additional Resources

Joseph Fujikawa images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives

Funding for this oral history was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.