Date of birth : 1941-09-13
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Minato-ku, Osaka, Japan
Nationality : Japanese
Category : Arhitecture and Engineering
Last modified : 2011-09-27
Tadao Ando is one of the most renowned contemporary Japanese architects. His designs are often compared to those of Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier and he obviously takes some inspiration from their work. Characteristics of Ando's work include large expanses of unadorned walls combined with wooden or slate floors and large windows. Active natural elements, like sun, rain, and wind are a distinctive inclusion to his contemporary style.
Ando was born a few minutes before his twin brother in Osaka, Japan, in 1941. When he reached the age of two, his family decided that he would be raised by his grandmother while his brother would remain with their parents. Ando's childhood neighborhood contained the workshops of many artisans, including a woodworking shop where he learned the techniques of that craft. As an adult, his earliest design attempts were of small wooden houses and furniture.
Ando told Watanabe Hiroshi in a 1993 article for Japan Quarterly that his grandmother "wasn't very strict with regard to school.... But she was strict about me keeping my word." He was a mediocre student, so rather than pursuing an education, Ando followed in the footsteps of his brother to become a professional boxer at the age of 17. A series of boxing matches soon took him to Bangkok, Thailand. While there, he visited Buddhist temples in his spare time and became fascinated by their design. He then spent several years traveling in Japan, Europe, and the United States, observing building design.
Ando abandoned his boxing career to apprentice himself to a carpenter and might have started a career as a builder instead of an architect except that he kept encouraging his clients to accept his unconventional design ideas. He had no formal architectural training. Using a list of the books architecture students were assigned to read in four years, he trained himself within one year. He did not apprentice to another architect because every time he tried, he has explained in interviews, he was fired for "stubbornness and temper."
Ando further demonstrated his independence by refusing to establish an office in Tokyo, which is generally thought to be essential for architectural success in Japan. He opened his practice, in 1969, at the age of 28, in his native Osaka. His firm, which is managed by his wife, Yumikio, is still based in Osaka. Consequently, the great majority of his buildings are in or around Osaka, including several projects in nearby Kobe.
Ando first achieved recognition with the Azuma House which received the Architectural Institute of Japan's annual award in 1979. Completed in 1976, and also known as the Rowhouse in Sumiyoshi, this small house in a working-class section of Osaka introduced all the elements of his later work: smooth concrete walls, large expanses of glass, uncluttered interiors, and an emphasis on bringing nature into contact with the residents. Only two stories high and just over three meters wide, its windowless front wall is made entirely of reinforced concrete with a single recessed area that shelters the entrance. The home is composed of three cubic components. The first cube contains the living room on the ground floor, and the master bedroom above. The third segment contains the kitchen, dining area, and bathroom on the lower floor, and the children's bedroom on the upper floor. The second section, between the other two, is a central courtyard.
The courtyard that lies between the two bedrooms is walled but completely open to the sky above. A bridge spans the courtyard and joins with a side staircase that descends to the courtyard. With the exception of the kitchen/dining/bath grouping, one must go outside to pass between rooms even during the winter and rainy seasons. Ando believes the inconvenience and discomfort are not without recompense. His buildings force an awareness onto their inhabitants of their place in the world. Moreover, the introspective design of the home insulates its occupants from the sound and sights of the city and offers a tranquil space which is still open to the sun, wind, and clouds.
One of Ando's larger well-known housing projects is his Rokko Housing Complex. The complex, which was built in three stages on the sixty degree slope of the Rokko mountains, contains open public spaces and insular private apartments. Each apartment features a terrace with a spectacular view of the port of Kobe and the Bay of Osaka. Ando's Church on the Water, in Hokkaido, is a Christian church which features an artificial lake which comes to the very edge of the building. The cubic concrete chapel has one entirely glass wall that slides completely away in good weather. The pews in the chapel face the lake and overlook a large steel cross standing in the middle of the water. Church of Light, in Osaka, which is recognized as another masterful work, is a rectangular concrete box, intersected at a 15 degree angle by a freestanding wall which defines the entrance. Behind the altar, a clear glass cross-shaped opening in the concrete wall floods the interior with light. Water Temple, in Hyogo, is a Buddhist temple built under a lotus pond. The entrance to the temple is a stairwell which bisects the pond and leads to the temple below.
Ando's four-story Japan Pavilion was considered the most impressive work of architecture at Expo '92 in Seville, Spain. One of the largest wooden buildings in the world, the pavilion measures 60 meters wide, 40 meters deep, and 25 meters high at its tallest point. Unpainted wood, one of the most traditional construction materials in Japan, was juxtaposed with such modern elements as a translucent Teflon-coated screen roof. Though conceptually different from his concrete and glass constructions, the pavilion still exhibits his style by not having front openings save a single breezeway that allows the sun and wind free passage between the two wings. The focus remains internally oriented with an emphasis on tangible natural participation within the defined space.
In 1999, Ando's design for a seminar house for TOTO, a manufacturer of plumbing equipment, was built. Ando had been asked by the firm to "find a site that would be spiritually refreshing," according to Peter Davey of Architectural Review. The spot he chose was on the top of a hill that looked down over a forest leading to Osaka Bay. He went on to design his largest project up to that point: a 70-acre garden complex on Awaji Island in Japan. Ando called it yumebutai, which translates to "a place of dreams." He worked hard to get the property transferred to public ownership so that it could be enjoyed by everyone, not just the wealthy. A hotel, conference center, gardens, and water parks were all included in his plan. "Yumebutai cannot be discussed as architecture alone," Architecture 's Tom Heneghan declared. "It is an overlap between architecture, landscape design, event planning, social programming, and environmental art."
In 2001, the Calder Foundation hired Ando to design its new museum in Philadephia, Pennsylvania, which according to Interior Design, would "be dedicated to three successive generations of sculptors who shared both a name-Alexander Calder-and a medium." He was also contracted to design the Francois Pinault Contemporary Art Foundation in Paris, France (scheduled for completion in 2006) and the Clark Institute in Williamston, Massachusetts. His next building, the new Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, Missouri, opened to the public in October of 2001; it was his first institutional project in the United States. That same year, a Buddhist temple he designed, called Komyo-ji, was built. Replacing a 250-year-old building, the temple incorporated "existing trees, stone walls, gatehouse, and belltower as a memory of the old-a decision that produced a more compressed and engaging complex," wrote Architectural Review 's Michael Webb. The progressive chief priest had insisted on a light-filled space for the community which was suitable for concerts, lectures, and worship. In 2002, fashion designer Giorgio Armani commissioned Ando to design his world headquarters building. Ando's task was to turn a former chocolate factory in Milan, Italy, into a suitable place for fashion shows and other events. Architectural Review 's Webb declared that the design demonstrated how Ando "has reinvented the traditional Japanese aesthetic of light and shade, offering linear progression through a walled labyrinth, guiding foot and eye, concealing and selectively revealing to build anticipation for the drama to come. Materials are plain, forms simple, but the effects are thrilling. From Buddhist temple to European fashion house, Ando finds a common thread between diverse cultures and patterns of human behavior."
Also in 2002, construction was completed on another one of Ando's designs, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas. "In Ft. Worth he's created a rich architectural experience of materials and movement-you feel drawn through galleries that are both logical and mysterious, simple and surprising," wrote Newsweek 's Cathleen McGuigan. Ando's first British project involved joining a group that relandscaped Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens. Ando's work received mixed reviews, however. Questions were raised "about the value and possible loss of local identity. To what extent is this .... a Japanese garden? And is it at home in central Manchester?," pondered Building Design 's Steven Morant. In 2004, another of Ando's designs, the Langen Foundation, opened in Neuss, Germany.
Ando has lectured widely and has taught architecture at such American universities as Yale, Columbia, and Harvard. According to Herbert Muschamp in an interview for the New York Times in 1995, Ando considers Japan "boring. He prefers the United States because Americans are encouraged to have their own dreams and to pursue them. In Japan, he says, people do not let themselves dream."
View the full website biography of Tadao Ando.