In light of the recent devastation in Japan, organizers of Cersaie 2011, set for September 20-24 in Bologna, Italy, are set to honor Japanese architecture by inviting Japanese architects Kengo Kuma and Kazuyo Sejima to speak during the four-day event.

“Power of the place” is the title of the talk that will be given at Cersaie by Kengo Kuma, founder of the prestigious Tokyo-based practice Kengo Kuma & Associates, on September 21. Kuma has produced numerous high-profile and innovative works of architecture in Japan and worldwide, most notably the Water/Glass House in Shizuoka, the Toyoma Center for Performance Arts in Miyagi, the Stone Museum in Tochigi and the Nezu Museum in Tokyo. He is currently involved in a number of major projects in China and Europe, including the Arts Centre in Besançon, France and the Performing Arts Centre in Granada, Spain. A recurrent theme of Kengo Kuma’s work is that of the void, which he uses as a key component of architecture on a par with other building materials. “The void has the same importance in architecture that silence has in music,” Kuma argued in a keynote lecture given at the World Congress of Architecture in Turin in 2008. “Many of my colleagues believe that a museum should be the reason for visiting a place, they see museums as ends in themselves,” he continued. “For me they are the means to an end: architecture must be a window that opens onto something else, and it must do this with respect for the natural world.”

While Kuma believes that architecture should be a tool and a gesture of respect towards nature, another prominent Japanese architect who has been invited to Bologna for this year’s edition of Cersaie is renowned for her ability to combine design and technology, the avant-garde and a return to the minimalist geometries of the ancient Japanese tradition, and ultimately for her ability to combine the material and the abstract.

Kazuyo Sejima, who will give a keynote lecture on Friday, September 23, started her own architecture practice in 1987. In 1995, together with Ryue Nishizawa she founded Sanaa, the Tokyo-based practice that has produced some of the world’s most innovative works of architecture in recent years, such as the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Serpentine Pavilion in London, the Christian Dior Building in Omotesando, Tokyo and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, which in 2004 won her the Golden Lion at the 9th Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition. It was Toyo Ito, her teacher and first employer, who described her as “an architect who connects the material and the abstract with the utmost simplicity.” Renowned for her ability to utilise gender differences in architecture, she was the first woman to curate the International Architecture Exhibition at the Biennale in 2010 following her success in 2000 with the “City of girls” exhibition in the Japanese pavilion. Winner of last year’s prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, Kazuyo Sejima has recently been working on other high-profile projects in Europe, including the Rolex Learning Center at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, opened in March 2010, and the new branch of the Louvre Museum in Lens, France, currently under construction.

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