With their works - typically composed of elements taken from Western Modernism and traditional Japanese aesthetics - within a cool, minimalistic, yet extremely poetic style, Japanese architect duo SANAA have in a relatively short period of time been able to establish themselves at the very top of the international architecture scene.
Some of the latest projects that SANAA (an architectural firm that was founded by Kazuyo Sejima and her partner Ryue Nishizawa in Tokyo in 1995) has been involved in - and which have received much attention - include Zollverein School of Design and Management in Essen (2006), the New Museum in New York (2007) and the Rolex Learning Centre at the Cole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), which opened in Lausanne in the spring of 2010.
SANAA has been working together with Vitra for several years. In the summer of 2010, the building of a factory hall designed by the architecture firm will be completed on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein. In addition to buildings, SANAA has also made a name for itself with a series of designs which have a pleasingly emblematic character which are usually connected to a built project involving the architects. One such design is the organically shaped bench called Flower which Vitra added to its portfolio in 2010.
The piece, which was designed in 2001, was first seen in a temporary garden cafe at the 7th Istanbul Biennale, and in a childrens library (also designed by SANAA) in Toyo Itos Mediathek in Sendai. Later, the bench was used in many varied and important SANAA projects: at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa (2004), and in the temporary Serpentine Pavilion in London (2009), where the bench formed an exciting dialogue with the surrounding architecture. When it was decided that the bench would be used at the Learning Centre at the EPFL, SANAA and Vitra decided that the design - which had before then only been manufactured in small quantities - was ready to go into production.
Kazuyo Sejima, who was born in the Japanese prefecture of Ibaraki in 1956, studied architecture at Japan Women's University. After initially working for Toyo Ito & Associates, she opened the architectural office Kazuyo Sejima & Associates in 1987 and subsequently founded SANAA together with Ryue Nishizawa in 1995. She has served as a lecturer at Keio University since 2001.
Ryue Nishizawa was born in 1966 in the prefecture of Kanagawa, Japan. He completed an architectural degree at Yokohama National University before joining the office of Kazuyo Sejima & Associates, which led to the founding of SANAA together with Kazuyo Sejima in 1995. Since 1997 he has also run his own firm, the Office of Ryue Nishizawa, and has taught at Yokohama National University since 2001.
SANAA was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2010.