The duo's 2004 art museum in Kanazawa, Japan, was admired
A duo of Japanese architects, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, have won the most coveted award in architecture, the Pritzker Prize, the jury has announced.
The 2010 winners were praised for using everyday building materials to create ethereal structures that shelter flowing, dreamlike spaces.
Their art museums, university buildings and designer-label fashion boutiques span Japan, the US and Europe.
The prize will be awarded formally in May in New York.
The duo were praised for the way their work blends into its surroundings
Sejima and Nishizawa, who are partners in the architectural firm Sanaa, said they did not see themselves as working within any sort of distinct Japanese architectural tradition.
But they acknowledged being influenced by the austere construction methods, lightweight materials and porous boundaries between inside and outside space that characterise traditional Japanese buildings.
"If you see Japanese temples made of wood, you can see how the architecture is made up," Nishizawa said.
"They have a clear construction and transparency and they are quite simple. I think this is one of the big things that we are influenced by."
Among the projects mentioned by the Pritzker jury were the Christian Dior Building in Tokyo's Omotesando shopping district and the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's newly opened Rolex Learning Centre was also cited; it is a single-storey slab-like concrete and glass structure that undulates over a four-acre site, punctured in places to let light enter the massive open space that makes up its interior.