Kazuyo Sejima, half of the Pritzker Prize-winning, Japanese architectural firm SANAA, is breaking ground in the Rolex Mentor andProtégé Arts Initiative. This installment of the program, founded in 2002 to pair promising newcomers in literature, music, visual arts, dance, film, or theatre, with veteran figures in their respective fields, marks the first time that architecture will be included as one of its disciplines, the luxury watchmaker announced today at the Venice Architecture Biennale. (Architect Álvaro Siza, this year’s Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement honoree, served as a mentor at the program's debut, but under the visual arts category.)
Sejima joins a venerable line-up that includes Margaret Atwood (literature), Patrice Chéreau (theatre), Gilberto Gil (music), William Kentridge (visual arts), Lin Hwai-min (dance) and Walter Murch (film). Sejima and partner Ryue Nishizawa took the Golden Lion for the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, in 2004, and the industry’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, in 2010. In the same year, Sejima served as the first director of the Venice Biennale’s architectural exhibition.
Sejima’s protégé will not be named until next month, although the young architect’s workload has already been prescribed: he or she will contribute over the course of a year to “Home for All,” a project helmed by Sejima and other Japanese architectural luminaries in response to 2011's tsunami and the ensuing housing crisis.