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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa have won their profession's top honor, the Pritzker Architecture Prize, praised for their use of light and transparency in buildings across the globe.
Sejima and Nishizawa, partners in the architectural firm SANAA, are the fourth Japanese architects to win the coveted annual award, which is sometimes described as the architectural world's equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
The Pritzker Prize jury described their work in Japan, Germany, England, Spain, France, the Netherlands and the United States as delicate, powerful, precise, fluid and ingenious, yet not overly or overtly clever.
They were praised in a citation from the jury "for the creation of buildings that successfully interact with their contexts and the activities they contain, creating a sense of fullness and experiential richness."
"The architecture of Sejima and Nishizawa explores the ideas of lightness and transparency and pushes the boundaries of these concepts to new extremes," Martha Thorne, executive director of the prize, said in a statement.
The first SANAA project in the United States began construction in 2004 in Ohio and was completed in 2006 -- a Glass Pavilion for the Toledo Museum of Art -- while they also designed the New Museum of New York City, which was completed in 2007.
The jury also mentioned two projects in Japan: the O-Museum in Nagano and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa.
Other buildings they have designed include the De Kunstline Theater in the Netherlands, Zollverein School of Management and Design in Essen, Germany, and a building on the lawn of the Serpentine Pavilion in London that was in place for three months.
Sejima said she was honored to receive this award.
"I have been exploring how I can make architecture that feels open which I feel is important for a new generation of architects," she said in a statement.
Previous Japanese winners were the late Kenzo Tange in 1987, Fumihiko Maki in 1993, and Tadao Ando in 1995.
Last year's winner was Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, who has created a handful of meticulously crafted buildings at his alpine retreat including his best-known project, Therme Vals, a luxury spa that opened in 1996 after a decade of work.
The Pritzker Prize was established in 1979 by the Pritzker family, the Chicago-based clan that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, as a means of honoring a living architect whose built works, among other things, produce "consistent and significant contributions to humanity."
The inaugural winner was American Philip Johnson.
The prize -- a bronze medallion and $100,000 -- is handed out at a different location each year. The ceremony for Sejima and Nishizawa will take place on Ellis Island, New York, on May 17.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Alex Richardson