FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 29, 2021


Joseph Duong - - 213-830-5690


LOS ANGELES - The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) is honored to receive the Twenty-Five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIALA) for the Pavilion designed by famed architect Gyo Obata of HOK, a global design and architecture firm.

AIALA described its Twenty-Five Year Award as recognition bestowed upon an architectural design of “enduring significance” for a project “that has stood the test of time for 25 to 35 years.” JANM’s Pavilion was selected for its design, scale, and how it “acts as a keystone to a significant Plaza, creating community for the community.”

“The Museum is deeply gratified to receive the Twenty-Five Year Award from the AIALA,” said Ann Burroughs, President and CEO of JANM, who received the award at an Oct. 28 ceremony.  “From the day it opened, the Pavilion has represented a blending of East and West, a fusion of Japanese and American culture and history.  We are thrilled that AIALA selected a project that contributes “to American/Angeleno life and architecture” because the Pavilion has always served as a focal point for education, community, dialogue, and democracy.”

The 84,000-square-foot Pavilion, which opened in 1999, was conceived by Obata as a graceful interplay of Eastern and Western design elements.  JANM commissioned Obata to design this Museum expansion across the Plaza from its first home in JANM’s renovated Historic Building which was formerly the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.

Obata’s design incorporated dramatic yellow Italian granite and red Indian sandstone, cherry wood, and glass throughout the structure reflecting both a Japanese aesthetic and the mission of the Museum. 

“In designing the Japanese American National Museum’s new Pavilion, we sought to create a sense of openness instead of the conventional front-of-the-house/back-of-the-house division of so many museums,” explained Obata in a JANM history. “We also worked to incorporate both Western and Eastern philosophies in the design and to create a structure that was inviting and reflective, as witnessed in the use of glass and perforated stainless steel that softens direct sunlight.”

In a 1993 interview, Obata said the Pavilion’s dramatic curved steel and glass outer walls were conceived “to give a certain interest on the exterior of the building so that when visitors first come to this part of Little Tokyo, that the building itself is inviting and says, ‘come and see what’s inside.’” 

Obata, 98, is one of three HOK principals who founded Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum in St. Louis in 1955. Obata and the firm are renowned for their worldwide architecture, including the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.


Established in 1985, JANM promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM is a hybrid institution that straddles traditional museum categories and strives to provide a voice for Japanese Americans as well as a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public in 1992, JANM has presented over 70 exhibitions onsite while traveling 17 exhibits to venues such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Ellis Island Museum in the United States, and to several leading cultural museums in Japan and South America. For more information, visit or follow us on social media @jamuseum.