Retrospective: Japanese architects of renown - Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando (13 September 1941-)

Retrospective: Japanese architects of renown - Tadao Ando
His architecture has been an inspiration for many, students especially, as they struggle to achieve clarity, simplicity. His distinct ability was that even a project of humble proportions was designed as a monumental landscape.

Born in post-war Japan , Tadao Ando says of himself "I was never a good student. I always prefered learning things on my own outside of class." A basically self trained architect, the boy who worked at the local carpenter learning to work wood and model airplanes and ships, started studying architecture by going to see actual buildings and then reading them up. Kyoto and Nara provided him with traditional architecture examples in the form of temples, shrines and tea houses.

Retrospective: Japanese architects of renown - Tadao Ando
Trips to the United States, Europe and Africa between 1962 and 1969 began the formulation of his thoughts on architectural design. These precipitated the formation of Tadao Ando Architectural & Associates in Osaka in 1969.

He works primarily in exposed cast-in-place concrete and is renowned for an exemplary craftsmanship which invokes a Japanese sense of materiality, junction and spatial narrative through the pared aesthetics of international modernism.

Minimalistic and monumental the first impression of his architecture is its materiality. His large and powerful walls set a limit. A second impression of his work is the tactility. His hard walls seem soft to touch, admit light, wind and stillness. The third impression is the emptiness, because only light and space surround the visitor in Tadao Ando's building. He takes from the architecture of the past and from Le Courbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and interprets it in his own fashion.

The Row House in Sumiyoshi the Azuma House, Osaka (1975), basically a simple block building, is noticeable because of its blank concrete façade punctuated only by a doorway was his first realized project. Laid out as three equal rectangular volumes, there are two enclosed volumes of interior spaces separated by an open courtyard. By virtue of its position the courtyard becomes an integral part of the circulation system.

Retrospective: Japanese architects of renown - Tadao Ando
Rokko Housing I brought Tadao Ando international attention. Its popularity lead to the later constructions of Rokko Housing II and III. Each phase was larger than the previous.

Among his most remarkable works are the religious structures of which he holds the credits for many Christian chapels and places of religion and contemplation. The church of the light (Baraki, Osaka, 1988-89) is located in a residential suburb 40 km to the north-east of the center of Osaka. It consists from a rectangular concrete box crossed at 15 degrees angle by freestanding wall. The bisecting wall obliges the visitor to turn to enter the chapel. In an unusual configuration, the floor descends in stages toward the altar, which is next to the rear wall, whose horizontal and vertical openings form a cross, flooding the space with light.

On the Awaji island is Tadao Ando’s Water Temple. With unexpected entrances and pathways and stair ways the visitor is lead to the over a Lotus Pond into a grid of redwood to a statue of Buddha with its back to the west. The setting sun glows through the openings reminding all that space can be source of inspiration.

In his long list of accomplishments are the Children’s museum, Himeji, Museum of Literature, Naoshima Contemprorary Art Musem, Chikatsu-Asuka Historical museum etc. There are also projects like Naoshima museum and hotel and the great project for Awaji island, Hyogo designed in 1992.

Tadao Ando is the winner of many prestigious architectural awards, for example the Carlsberg Prize (1992), Pritzker Prize (1995), Praemium Imperiale (1996), Gold Medal of Royal Institute of British Architects (1997) and the AIA Gold Medal, American Institute of Architects. He is now is one of the most highly respected architect in the world, influencing an entire generation of students.

MGS Architecture January 2007

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