One of the masterpiece-works by Tadao Ando the Osaka Prefectural Sayamaike Museum in Osaka, Japan is designed to house relics of the ancient Japanese engineering techniques. It is regarded as the site-museum of Sayamaike pond intended to introduce the history of water control, irrigation, and reclamation. The structure is built 15m below the river and a few meters away from Sayamaike Lake. Space represents the architect’s ideology to promote simplicity and minimalism working with geometry, light, and space. 

The building is composed of a large rectangular box and a small cuboid surrounded by rectangular water sources. The renowned architect worked 4 years to design and it took 3 years to construct the museum. 

Osaka Prefectural Sayamaike Museum by Tadao Ando: Water and Architecture - Sheet1
Sayamaike museum_©

About the architect

Tadao Ando, a renowned Japanese architect known for his works that manipulates space, light, and wind to create atmosphere through the material, shadows, and spatial design. He primarily works with reinforced concrete which he refers to as “smooth-as-silk” in unique ways to generate patterns of light and wind in all his works. Born on 13 Sep 1941 in Osaka, Japan, the architect grew up looking at how wood works, decency in Japanese architecture, and had a keen eye for details since childhood. 

He is a self-taught architect as he was not intended to be an architect but through his interest in form development and varied apprenticeship, he gained knowledge and experience. Though he never pursued professional education but learned through buying books, sketching, visiting the architectural spaces which helped him to pursue his field of interest. He also won The Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1995 and UIA Gold Medal in 2005.

Osaka Prefectural Sayamaike Museum by Tadao Ando: Water and Architecture - Sheet2
Sayamaike museum tallest building_©


The museum is made in harmony with the structure and its environment, as he believed that instead of creating new things we should take good care of the architecture that exists in the built environment. The main design element used is ‘water’. 

The design gets reflected in water once in an hour for 5 minutes presenting a quiet, melodious world with clear geometric space planes as he says: “The buildings I have created put the visitors’ souls at ease and allowed for a better connection to nature as well as light, water, and wind.” The building inherits minimalist design with simple raw material, concrete, and low key lines that make the links in spatial experiences by connecting rhythm of building materials and space shapes that evoke people’s consciences, revealing aesthetic characteristics in concrete with sensual, soft, and rigid power. 

Osaka Prefectural Sayamaike Museum by Tadao Ando: Water and Architecture - Sheet3
Sayamaike museum potio_©


The building is divided into seven zones that preserve the history of the Sayamaike Pond, an artificial pond that has undergone many renovations in centuries. Also, it showcases the reclamation and restoration works in distinct eras.

After entering the museum you walk along the waters of Sayamaike, lined with cherry trees, then comes a wall of granite leading to the way to Dry Square. A few steps from there at the corner of the square leads to a patio with water falling on one side and a water body on the other. The lane along the central water body leads to a cylindrical space which is the court area. The spaces continue to take you to the middle level that’s where the main building area the exhibition hall opens.

Osaka Prefectural Sayamaike Museum by Tadao Ando: Water and Architecture - Sheet4
Sayamaike museum _©Yanai Takahira

The largest volume of the building, the exhibition hall, is determined as the top level of the river, at a height of 15.4 meters with a section of 62 meters long extracted from the old dam. A ramp connects the triple heightened building to other exhibitions of the museum. The openings at the top level show the excavation. 

The exhibition halls are half underground so that they have continuity with banks. The one opening of the entrance is at a higher level, on the other side, the museum corresponds to a cliff and makes you climb to the end. 

Osaka Prefectural Sayamaike Museum by Tadao Ando: Water and Architecture - Sheet5
Sayamaike museum_©
Sayamaike museum court area_©

Other than this the architect has worked on 10+ museum designs. He continues to inspire young minds with his philosophy of integrating nature’s elements in the design. Tadao Ando’s thoughts on his design philosophy: “In all my works, light is an important controlling factor. I create enclosed spaces mainly using thick concrete walls. The primary reason is to create a place for the individual, a zone for oneself within society. When the external factors of a city’s environment require the wall to be without openings, the interior must be especially full and satisfying.” (Tadao Ando 2003) 

As it’s clear, these words can be interpreted from the spaces Tadao Ando created. So, which of his designs inspire you the most?


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  • jina e. han. (n.d.). Tadao Ando: Looking at Art, Architecture and Nature For the Museum Spaces of the Future – Part One. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jun. 2021].
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Akshada Choudhary is a student willing to learn more about green architecture as a need of future odyssey. Encouraging sustainable architecture over spectacular visuals but value the role of materials exploration.

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