By Lise Laurberg

Based in Tokyo, SANAA designs highly aesthetic and experimental buildings in Japan, Europe and USA. The white, ethereal architecture of SANAA has to many people, become synonymous with contemporary Japanese architecture.

SANAA was founded in 1995 by Kazuyo Sejima (born 1956), and Ryue Nishizawa (born 1966), a former employee at Kazuyo Sejima and Associates. In 1997, Ryue Nishizawa also founded his own office, Ryue Nishizawa and Associates, and to this day both architects work on individual projects outside of SANAA.

SANAAs work includes a large number of successful public buildings, such as the New Museum and the Rolex Learning Center, but the architects also experiment with housing designs to shape and change our daily life, especially in their individual practices (see for example Moriyama House).

In spite of their whiteness, the buildings of SANAA are very far from modernist architecture, as the architects continue to incorporate elements of doubt and ambiguity into their works. The extensive use of glass in SANAA’s architecture has quite a different effect than seen in most glass buildings, as SANAA uses the glass to create reflections and layered spaces with unclear boundaries. Also, the architects tend to use playful elements in their architecture, adding a note of humor to the experience.

SANAA is often said to work with a ‘fourth dimension’ in their design of space. This is to say that the complexity of their buildings always contain traits that cannot be explained or communicated via drawings or photos. The touch of humor, the spatial ambiguity and the use of reflections all demand that you visit the buildings to really understand them.

In 2010, SANAA was awarded the highest honor in architecture, the Pritzker Prize. In 2004, SANAA received a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale for 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
Visit the website of SANAA