The architect Tadao Ando 忠雄安藤
Portrait of the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, 2004.
Credit: Christopher Schriner - Wikimédia
Church of the Light in Ibaraki
The Benesse House Oval, by Tadao Ando
Azuma House (1976) Osaka.
The Lee Ufan Museum, the result of a collaboration between Tadao Ando and the south Korean artist.
The genius of concrete and light
As he likes to say himself, the Japanese architect Tadao Ando is entirely self-taught. As a former boxer without a diploma, he became what is now part of a very elite caste of "starchitects". In his adolescent years, he frequented daily workshops for carpentry, ironwork, and glassware run by his neighbors near the home of his grandmother, who raised him.
Inspiration from Le Corbusier
After working in the furniture design industry, interior architecture and renovation of houses, he decided to study architecture but without following any specific training. His discovery of Le Corbusier's works was a turning point. Between 1962 and 1969, he traveled the world to see great masterpieces of architecture and perfect his craft. This was an opportunity for him to appreciate the achievements of Le Corbusier in Paris and Marseille.
On his return to Osaka in 1969, he founded his own agency and started work by building small individual houses in the 70s. From then on, the ascent was quick. His small house Azuma, entirely made of concrete, was completed in 1976 and three years later he was awarded the annual prize by the Architectural Institute of Japan. He then created the Japanese Pavilion for Expo 92 in Seville, one of the most noticed and visited exhibits. His success continued through the 1990s, with the MOMA New York and the Center Georges Pompidou devoting exhibitions to his work. After receiving the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1995, he was appointed as a full professor at the University of Tokyo; Ando, a self-taught architect!
Geometry and concreteUsing minimal forms (circle, square, rectangle...) as well as a palette of reduced materials, his style is immediately recognizable. Through the means of economizing and counting, Ando's work follows a certain Japanese tradition while also taking inspiration from the Western styles of Le Corbusier, the Bauhaus, and the American architect Louis Kahn. Ando has a preference for concrete, whose appearance changes with time and captures the light. By paying close attention to detail, he pushed his desire for refinement to the extreme by developing his own concrete formula. Although hard, it is also smooth and delicate, resembling brushed or varnished concrete.
Refuge and lightThe buildings of Tadao Ando are thought as havens of peace, behind closed doors against urban chaos, an architectural-refuge isolating one from external hostility. Many of his houses are organized around an inner courtyard that acts as a skylight. In his Church of the Light, built in 1989 in Ibaraki, the play between concrete and light finds its most remarkable expression. Thanks to an opening in the shape of a cross, the sun enters the building and materializes the sacred quality of the place. The relationship between light and darkness holds a prominent place in his work.
Art, architecture and natureThe architect is also the man behind Naoshima, an island dedicated to contemporary art in the Seto Inland Sea. In 1989, Soichiro Fukutake, president of the Benesse company and creator of this island-museum, solicited Ando for the construction of Benesse House. This hotel-museum is an unparalleled site offering spectacular views of the sea and surrounding volcanic islands. Then Ando built the annex of the hotel, as an immense oval; The perfect fusion of nature and architecture. He also created Minamidera, a wooden house which was a piece by the American artist James Turell. In the 2000s, he designed two other museums on the island; the Chichu Art Museum and the Lee Ufan Museum. The existence of his own museum on Naoshima is an additional mark of the intimate relationship of the architect with the place.
Tadao Ando also expresses himself in projects in the heart of large cities. The architect behind sites in Venice and Paris, is also behind the design of the Tokyo Sky Tree.