Tadao Ando is a poet and his renditions in concrete are simply but frozen musical wonders, adhering to the proverb of architecture being frozen music. The pilgrimage to works of Tadao Ando or Ando-san as he is respectfully addressed is an inspiring one. His attention to detail, love for concrete and purity of massing make for spectacular architecture. Though starkly distinct from the surrounds and not reflective of the traditional vernacular Japanese architecture, the buildings crafted by Tadao are reflective of a deeper philosophy of the people of the island country. Less is indeed more here and each line is deliberately laid and addressed to create an experience in the average building user. An experience that is reminiscent, uplifting and entirely positive. While water is another beloved element in Ando’s architecture, he uses creepers, greenery to add chutzpah and liveliness, making the stark cold concrete come alive with natural elements. Ando’s architecture is best set under the blue sky, punctuated by creamy white exteriors or even the warmth of wood.
The Garden of Fine Arts, Kyoto
Finished in 1990, the Garden of Fine arts in Kyoto with its tangential axis offers a rather peculiar division of space within the rectangular site. Add to the disorientation a masterful play of levels, the sound of gushing water, Rembrants and Monets on large size panels sometimes on the huge monolithic concrete walls or at other times immersed in water and you have a space that creates a Zen moment, brings one down to the here and now. And the fact that Ando successfully forces one to meditate, to be present in the moment (installing Japanese soulfulness), creating a sense of wonder makes this urban garden of fine arts a rather delightful exposition.
The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe
Characterised by fingers reaching out to the waters of Osaka Bay the Hyogo Prefectural museum of Art in Kobe has an oddly serious air about it. The massing split into three solid volumes are imposing holding fort Japanese art. Ando creates sombre spaces across the interior spaces closing in the interior spaces with large doses of grey. The rather tomb like quality of the interior spaces hardly do justice to the art it houses. However in the outdoor spaces, complemented by grey-blue skies and multilevel circular ramps and stair-way connections between the levels create dramatic inward looking spaces. The building is supplemented by minute attention to detail and the grey concrete in rectangular proportions. The museum also holds Tadao Ando’s works, a permanent exhibition showcasing a replica in scale of the Church of Light. In an ingenious show of scale, with less being more, Ando dissects the simplicity of spirituality in the guise of religion.
The Water Temple, Awaji
Marked by an ingenious division of space the Water Temple is by far the favoritest of the Ando creations. The beautiful island of Awaji is marked by it’s clear blue skies, beautiful flowers and a largely happy populace. In such gay times, prayer is also a rather happy endeavour, from wherein stems the graceful of the temple. A short steep climb later the visitor is greeted by a concrete curtain with a walkway cut-through and another guiding the route into the temple. A trait every great architect employs to ensure how their architecture is read. The descent down to the temple is flanked by a lotus pond that rests on the roof of the temple. The lotus flower is symbolic of a lot of great qualities irrespective of its environs. The temple’s prayer hall is rolled in bright orange walls, lending a blast of colour to the otherwise grey interiors. Warm wood, freckled pebbles and a cosy interior is what definitely lends character to the beautiful Water temple in Awaji.
100-stepped Garden of Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji
Best topped by the bright blue sky, Ando’s 100-stepped garden of Awaji Yumebutai is a treat to the senses. Apart from the administration, cafe and awe-inspiring internal spaces, the 100-stepped garden ascends up over the many turns of spaces across the property. The ascent up to the gardens is flanked by a gushing water-body that flows down in a controlled cycle, controlled my measured and well-proportioned architecture. The stepped fall is detailed with an oyster shell motif base set in concrete. The steps up are enclosed in equally sided square geometry holding flowers of various types from across the world. Once up above the view down is stunning, with a host of flowers looking up at the viewer. The aural experience of water from under the garden is highly sensory.
The Sayamaike Historical Museum, Osaka
Built to showcase the agricultural technology of Japan, the Sayamaike Historical Museum in Osaka is located by the Sayamaike Pond, an artificial reservoir dating back to the 7th century. The museum is dedicated to the ancient water engineering technology and boasts of relics that allowed the Japanese to tap water successfully and grow the staples on the well-endowed islands. Ando uses his favourite natural element of water in the built form. The experience of approaching the building is speckled by the fall of water and a core central axis. The attention to detail, as always, is immaculate, and the walk through the museum is made lively with naturally lit inner spaces.
Chikatsu-Asuka Historical Museum, Osaka
Hosting a collection of Kofuns, or tombs of the Japanese emperors, the museum presents the scaled models of mega imperial-tombs that pretty much redefine the space that one takes after death. The building is conceived as a hill and its stone paved roof is envisioned as a an enormous stairway that may be transformed into a stage, a a lecture-hall or simply a viewing deck. In his trademark style Ando employs the tatami-proportioned concrete casts, high volume spaces, wooden punctuations, drawing in light through elaborate skylights, windows in glass. For once water is conspicuous by in absence. Built to tread softly on the environment, the museum records the Age of the Tumuli.
From the horse’s mouth:
“I believe the way people live can be directed a little by architecture”
“When I draw, the hand and the brain work together”
I couldn’t agree more!!