A Taste of Arquitecture
The Master Of Light: Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando was born in 1941 in Osaka, Japan. He is a self-taught architect that has succeeded. Tadao has various well-known projects, and minimalist concrete buildings are one of his signature works.
Being one of Japan's leading contemporary architects, Tadao Ando never got an architectural degree from an institution.
Before his career in architecture, Tadao Ando had multiple jobs that all contributed in some ways to his one true passion. He established Tadao Ando Architect & Associates in 1969. Since then, he has received a lot of recognition for his various projects and received prestigious awards, including the Pritzker Architecture Award in 1995.

Tadao Ando is renowned for his artistic utilization of natural light and a design approach that embraces the organic contours of the surrounding landscape rather than imposing artificial constructs upon it. His body of work seeks to harmoniously integrate structures with their environment, preserving the natural beauty while creating spaces that coexist in seamless unity with the surrounding landscape.

Some of his most-known works are; Church of Light in Osaka, Azuma House in Sumiyoshi, Water Temple in Awaji Island, 4×4 House in Kobe, Church on the Water in Hokkaido, Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima, Hill of The Buddha in Sapporo, and Benesse House Oval in Naoshima.
Early Life

Tadao Ando worked as a professional boxer before settling on the profession of architect. His boxing career allowed him to travel around the world. These travels were where he would visit the famous buildings of that time's architects. On a trip to Tokyo as a high school sophomore, he admired the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Imperial Hotel and eventually decided to end his boxing career to become an architect less than two years after graduating from high school. He attended night classes to learn drawing and took correspondence courses on interior design.

He visited buildings designed by renowned architects like Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Kahn before returning to Osaka in 1968 to establish his own design studio, Tadao Ando Architects and Associates. He has taught as a visiting professor at several universities, including Yale and Harvard, and since 1997 he has been on the faculty of the University of Tokyo, where he's now a professor emeritus.
Architectural Style

Francesco Dal Co, an architectural historian, classified Tadao Ando's approach to architecture and landscape as "critical regionalism". Which can be summed up as an approach to architecture that aims to produce more compassionate structures that, via their design and material choices, represent the culture and traditions of the areas they are built. His architectural style is said to create a "haiku" effect, emphasizing space and creating beauty through simplicity.
"I would like my architecture to inspire people to use their own resources, to move into the future."
— Tadao Ando
Ando's architectural style, deeply influenced by Japanese culture, centers around the concept of sensation and physical experiences, with a strong emphasis on simplicity. This focus on simplicity is closely tied to the religious term Zen, which prioritizes inner feelings over outward appearances. Zen's influence is evident in Ando's work and has become a defining feature of his designs.

Ando achieves the idea of simplicity in his architecture primarily through the use of concrete, which paradoxically creates a sense of cleanliness and weightlessness despite being a heavy material. The exterior of his buildings showcases this simplicity, allowing for ample space and potential in the construction and organization of the interiors, all in service of representing the aesthetic of sensation.
The body of work by Tadao Ando is renowned for the creative application of natural light and for its structures that follow the natural shapes of the environment rather than altering it by forcing it to fit the built space of a building. A common feature of Ando's structures is their intricate, three-dimensional circulation arrangements. These pathways wind across internal and external areas created both within and between extensive geometric structures.
The most prominent works of Tadao Ando in Japan
Church of Light

The Church of the Light is one of the most emblematic and representative works of Tadao Ando. The Church was part of a larger project which is the redesign of a Christian complex with a vicarage and a small pre-existing wooden church in a quiet residential neighborhood of the small city of Ibaraki, in the Japanese Osaka prefecture. Completion of the Church of Light in 1989 was the first phase of the process that Tadao Ando completed in 1999.

The unusual simplicity of the church has received criticism; this church is one of the examples where Ando's relationship with concrete and light is impressively read. Although it has been stated as nothing but six walls and a roof, the details of the church and its simplicity make it attractive. Ando said, "Light, alone, does not make light. There must be darkness for light to become light – resplendent with dignity and power. Darkness, which kindles the brilliance of light and reveals light's power, is innately a part of light."
Azuma House (aka. Row House)

The Azuma House, also known as the Row House, is one of Tadao Ando's first works. The project is located in Sumiyoshi, a district in central Osaka. It is replacing one of the traditional wooden-built houses of the area and is situated in the middle of three previously-built terraced houses.

The entrance of the Azuma House is provided by a single door from the street. Once inside, the house is divided into three equally sized sections with the patio. The patio is situated in the middle of the house to allow for the creation of a larger room by combining the open spaces. In this way, the central patio serves as the axis and center of the family's daily activities, and, in addition to serving as the home's lighting source.
Water Temple

The Water Temple is one of Tadao Ando's most known and appreciated works in Japan. Its contribution to Japanese culture is being recognized, and with its unusual design approach, it creates not only spatial but also sensational experiences for visitors.

The sensational experience starts with the walls that are designed to lead the path through the sacred place. The entrance is reached by following a narrow path through the forest until it reaches a three-meter-tall concrete wall with a single opening. Once inside, a second, curved wall directs guests along a path made of white gravel. The range of view abruptly expands to the horizon when one circles the end of the curved wall and reaches a pond, whose elliptical shape is reminiscent of the lotus flower, a Buddhist symbol.
4×4 House

The 4×4 House is a four-story tower with 4-meter x 4-meter dimensions. It rises in memory of the 1995 earthquake that wreaked devastation on the region and remains strong in people's minds. It was decided that the rooms would have no fixed parts in order to be able to adapt to different functions because the client wanted his home to be able to adapt to the foreseen changes that sooner or later would take place in his life.

In 2004, an identical house (4×4 house II) was commissioned to Tadao Ando by the neighbor of the adjacent plot. But the two twin houses were built using different materials with the suggestion made by the architect.
Church of Water

Tadao Ando initially had the idea for the Church on the Water as a project that would be situated on the Kobe coast, facing Osaka Bay, and could be used to investigate and suggest incongruous architectural circumstances, such as placing a church floating on the water. Ando continued to work on this initially straightforward idea, which over time became more intricate until he had a large-scale model, which he then chose to exhibit in the spring of 1987.

Most of the religious buildings contain typical religiously significant images; unlike them, the Church on the Water has no wall on the front. Instead, it offers nature itself as the expressive symbol of the creator. This decision offers a dynamic, multicolored, and constantly changing environment, ranging from sepia-toned autumnal palettes to glaucous winter tones to springtime flower patches in the vivid summer green. With its picturesque view, the chapel hosts numerous weddings each year and is one of the most popular wedding locations.
Chichu Art Museum

Since its establishment in 1992, the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum has made the island of Naoshima a popular tourist destination for art and culture enthusiasts. A refinery had occupied the island's northern side, but when publisher Benesse altered the southern region with a museum and a hotel three years later, the island's personality changed, and travel agencies started to put it on their tourist maps. Artworks by Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter De Maria are on permanent display in this building.

The Chichu Art Museum has a surface of 2,500 square meters. Chichu means 'within the earth', therefore, the literal translation of the museum's name is 'art museum in the earth'. To minimize its impact on the natural setting of the Seto Inland Sea, the museum was largely constructed underground. Despite being mostly underground, the museum allows in a lot of natural light, which alters the way the artworks seem and the atmosphere of the concrete space itself over the course of a day and the four seasons. The museum as a whole can be considered as a very large site-specific artwork that took shape as the artists and the architect exchanged ideas.
Hill of the Buddha

The Hill of Buddha is a Buddhist shrine at Makomanai Takino Cemetery in Sapporo, Japan. The shrine includes a 13.5-meter tall and 1500 tons weight statue that was carved in 2000 and stood alone in the field, giving an unrestful impression until 2015. The aim of the project was to build a prayer hall on the site that would enhance the attractiveness of a stone Buddha.

Tadao Ando explains the project as follows; The monument, which is hidden from view from the outside, was intended to be the focal point of a dramatic spatial sequence that started with the long approach through the tunnel. When visitors enter the hall, they turn to face the Buddha, whose head is surrounded by a halo of sky. One hundred fifty thousand lavender plants have been planted on Buddha Hill, and they change from fresh green in the spring to pale purple in the summer to silky white with snow in the winter.
21_21 Design Sight

A meeting of two of the country's biggest design minds, 21_21 Design Sight is a collaborative effort between Ando and iconic fashion designer Issey Miyake. This design gallery is located in the densely museum-populated district of Roppongi. The idea of this particular building was not only to show works, but to create a center that looks into how the element of design enriches our daily lives.

Take some time to inspect the carefully hand-sanded steel roof, inspired by Issey Miyake's A-POC ("A Piece of Cloth") concept. Though most of this building is actually located underground, the long stretching panels of glass ingenuously allow natural light to flood the concrete bunker.

Benesse House Oval

The Benesse House Museum, located in Naoshima, Japan, is an internationally renowned art museum and a unique destination for art and architecture enthusiasts. The Museum was opened in 1992 as a part of the Benesse Art Site Naoshima project, which aimed to create an art-filled, sustainable community that celebrates the coexistence of art, nature, and architecture. The Museum's unique design takes full advantage of the natural surroundings, featuring large openings that blur the boundaries between the interior and exterior spaces.

The oval is one of the most recognizable buildings in the area. It is a small hotel with only six rooms and an attractive oval-shaped pool surrounded by them. The oval-shaped pool is surrounded by a portico where the roof garden overhangs and creates an underground experience. The building's central courtyard, single-level, and oval design make it a unique location to stay. Access to the Oval is provided by a monorail cable car from The Benesse House, which is different yet contributes to the unique experience.
The most notable works of Tadao Ando outside Japan
Shanghai Poly Grand Theater

Located northwest of downtown Shanghai, specifically in the Jiading district, the theater known as Shanghai Poly Grand Theater was designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando in 2014, accompanied by a tower of homes and offices.

This building is made up of an immense volume of reinforced concrete surrounded by a transparent glass curtain and carved by a total of five cylindrical holes lined with wooden slats that penetrate the volume from all sides and angles, continually questioning the structural logic of the project.

Year: 2014
Location: Shanghai, China
He Art Museum (HEM)

In October 2020, the He Art Museum (HEM) was inaugurated, a private, non-profit art museum designed by Tadao Ando where the art collection of billionaire He Jianfeng will exhibit. This museum locates in the city of Foshan, in the small district of Shunde.

The design philosophy of the architecture is the idea of harmony. Through the double-helix staircase made with concrete, it presents various circles in different dynamics within the space. Ando used his typical language based on the use of geometric shapes built in concrete and did so by challenging the idea of dynamic geometry through a volume made up of four concrete cylinders of different sizes that overlap each other and as they expand to the outside creating a sensation of rhythm and tension in the visitor.

Year: 2020
Location: Foshan, Guangdong Province, China.
Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection

On May 22, 2021, the Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection was inaugurated, that is the latest museum to emerge from the collaboration between Tadao Ando and the French art collector François Pinault, who already collaborated on the Punta della Dogana project, in Venice.

This project is based on the renovation of the old Bourse de Commerce, whose origin dates back to the 18th century. After the renovation, it has become the largest private museum of modern art in all of France. The main space of the building is the nine-meter-high reinforced concrete cylinder that Ando introduces into the existing structure of the Stock Exchange, just below its dome.

Ando's restoration creates the conditions for a dialogue between architecture and its context, between heritage and contemporary creation, between the past and the present, between the collection and the visitor. French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec were invited to design the building's furnishings and, in a collaboration with manufacturer Flos Bespoke, a lighting concept that highlights the works of Ando.

Year: 2021
Location: Paris, France
The Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi

In 2006, the French art collector François Pinault choose Tadao Ando to restore and convert the Punta della Dogana building, located on the banks of the Venetian Grand Canal, into an art gallery. The architect recovered the original image of the 17th-century building, freeing it from all the additions that had arisen over the years.

The Teatrino was the third phase of Tadao Ando's renovation of the Palazzo Grassi. After converting both the main building and the accompanying Punta della Dogana into contemporary art galleries, Ando added this extra building as a venue for conferences and performances. Curving concrete walls separate the 220-seat auditorium from reception areas, dressing rooms and storage areas, providing a blank canvas for hanging artwork or film projection.

Year: 2013
Location: Venice, Italy
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth exemplifies the work of Tadao Ando through it's simple geometry, incorporation of the natural environment, and very minimal material selections. Five long, flat-roofed pavilions appear to float atop the 1.5-acre reflecting pond, which is reminiscent of other Ando projects.

Constructed with only concrete, steel, aluminum, glass and granite, the museum is perfectly reflected in the surrounding pond. Trees and hills enclose the museum, which is typical of Ando's architecture. Through its pure design, the museum has a striking presence as a modern work of art. "By using glass as a wall, physically there is a barrier, a protection from the outside, but visually there is no boundary between outside and inside. There is also the light that comes off the water through the glass that indicates a lack of boundary and can make its presence felt on the wall."

Year: 2002
Location: Fort Worth, Texas, the USA.