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Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007)

Dates of Interview:

May 28, 2001

Location of Interview:

Kurokawa's studio in Tokyo


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

66 pages
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Biographical Summary

Kisho Kurokawa was born in 1934 in Nagoya, Japan, and studied architecture at the University of Tokyo under Kenzo Tange, receiving his M.Arch in 1959 and his Ph.D. in 1964. From an early age, Kurokawa has been deeply interested in both the theory and practice of architecture, and is well known for his philosophy of "symbiosis" and his numerous publications and translations of architectural writings. Although most of his built work is found in Asia--including the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Maylasia, and the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and Osaka International Convention Center, both in Japan--he designed the Illinois Sporting Club at IllinoisCenter in Chicago in the late 1980s and has had a long-standing relationship with The Art Institute of Chicago. Kurokawa has maintained his own office, Kisho Kurokawa Architect and Associates, in Tokyo since 1962. He has also been a visiting lecturer, critic, and advisor for universities and institutions around the world and has received numerous international awards and distinctions for his writings and architecture. Kurokawa died in Tokyo, Japan on October 12, 2007.

Interview Highlights

Kurokawa speaks about his family background; his education in Nagoya and Tokyo; his publications; his philosophy of Symbiosis; Metabolism in architecture; his architectural office; the Sporting Club at Illinois Center in Chicago; his art; the differences between practicing architecture in the United States and in Japan; his awards and honors; and his vision for the future.

Perspective drawing, Sporting Club at Illinois Center, Chicago, 1988.
Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Interior view, Sporting Club at Illinois Center, Chicago, 1990.
Photograph by Mark Ballogg, courtesy of Kisho Kurokawa Architect and Associates.

Interview Excerpt

"...You know, in Chicago, for me it is Louis Sullivan and then Mies on Lake Shore Drive. They are the two people and this is very natural. Chicago is Sullivan and Mies. This [Sporting Club] is sort of an homage to them. The basic idea is Japanese architecture in the United States. The idea for this environment [Illinois Center], for me is the garden, the Japanese garden, with the many stones, the huge stones. These are stone gardens. The whole building should not appear strongly; it should be weak--transparent and invisible. Small and transparent, and slender structure, so it feels weak. Weakness is the Japanese vitality, of Japanese culture. The United States and Russia like the image of power, but Japanese culture is delicate...Shingu is number one among sculptors of moving sculpture.... This was one of his masterpieces. [The wind sculpture] was a very important design image of the four towers. I need that moving sculpture because Chicago is a city of wind." (pp.40-41)

Additional Resources

Kisho Kurokawa images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives

Funding for this oral history was provided by a grant from the Paul and Robert A. Barker Foundation.
Funding for the electronic presentation of this transcript was provided by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council.