Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects / Photo by Yoshiaki Tsutsui

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello and the University of Virginia selected Tokyo-based architect Toyo Ito, Hon. FAIA, for its 2014 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal for Architecture. This award recognizes notable achievements and significant contributions in a field in which Jefferson excelled. Similar to the AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, which recognizes licensed architects as well as public officials, The Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal recipients are not required to be architects. The Thomas Jefferson Medals are U.Va.’s highest honors given to those outside the university, which does not award honorary degrees.

Ito joins the ranks of a notable list of laureates including Mies van der Rohe (the award’s first recipient in 1966), Marcel Breuer (1968), Ada Louise Huxtable (1977), Philip Johnson (1978), Frank Gehry, FAIA (1994), Peter Zumthor (2006), and Zaha Hadid, Hon. FAIA (2007).

Sendai Mediatheque in Sendai-Shi, Miyagi, Japan
Toyo Ito & Associates / Photo by Nasca & Partners Sendai Mediatheque in Sendai-Shi, Miyagi, Japan

Ito is being recognized for his combination of “conceptual innovation with superbly executed buildings, as in his masterpiece, the Sendai Mediatheque

, which reimagines what a public museum and library should be in the digital age,” according to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

“[Architecture] takes us beyond ourselves and helps us aspire to inhabit and contribute to a more evolved world, said Kim Tanzer, dean of the U.Va. architecture school in a press release. “Toyo Ito’s work has this quality; both ethereal and utterly grounded, fantastical and practical, his architecture helps us to imagine new forms of human experience. His meaningful use of emerging digital tools, combined with his sophisticated deployment of non-Cartesian rationality, will inspire architects for generations to come.”

Ito has won several international awards, including the 2003 Architectural Institute of Japan Prize for the Sendai Mediatheque, the 2006 Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the 2012 Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the Venice Biennale, and the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The U.Va. architecture school will host a translated public talk by Ito on April 11, Jefferson’s birthday and the university’s “Founder’s Day.”

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation also recognizes achievements in law and citizenship leadership. The 2014 award winners in these categories are attorney Kenneth Feinberg and former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, respectively.