• Public panel discussion on mentoring in architecture from the Venice Architecture Biennale. Left to right: Alison Crawshaw, Sahel Al Hiyari, Sir David Chipperfield, Kazuyo Sejima, Hans Ulrich Obrist (moderator).

    Credit: David Levene

    Public panel discussion on mentoring in architecture from the Venice Architecture Biennale. Left to right: Alison Crawshaw, Sahel Al Hiyari, Sir David Chipperfield, Kazuyo Sejima, Hans Ulrich Obrist (moderator).

Acclaimed Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima has picked Chinese architect Yang Zhao to serve as her protégé for the Rolex Mentor Protégé Arts Initiative, a program that pairs a rising talent with an accomplished master. This is the mentorship program's first foray into architecture. 

Sejima is best known in America for her work with Ryue Nishizawa as SANAA, the firm that completed the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art in 2006 and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007. SANAA won the Pritzker Prize in 2010; the pair were among the youngest winners of the award in its history. In 2004, the firm won the Venice Architecture Biennale Golden Lion for Japan's 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Recent projects by SANAA include the "River" building for the Grace Farms Foundation and a Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.

Her career goes back further, though. She was named Japan's Young Architect of the Year award in 1992, three years before she formed SANAA. As a woman who was herself accomplished at a young age, she may be an ideal mentor for Zhao, who started his practice, Zhaoyang Studio, in 2007. The architect, who is 32, graduated from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design and is working on two projects in rural Yunnan Province, China. Sejima and Zhao will collaborate on Home-for-All, the housing project launched by Japanese architects in the wake of the 2011 tsunami in Japan. 

Sejima joins an illustrious panel of mentors participating in the 2012–13 Rolex Mentor Protégé Arts Initiative, including novelist Margaret Atwood, opera and theater director Patrice Chéreau, songwriter Gilberto Gil, artist William Kentridge, and film sound-editor Walter Murch.