A professional boxer, a self-taught architect, and Pritzker prize winner Tadao Ando uses concrete, light, and ventilation as his major design tools. He learned a lot about architecture by traveling.
” The use of water in my architecture is an attempt to bring to bear a spiritual dimension which is directly related to the Japanese thought of tradition.”
He tries to inculcate the social demands of contemporary times at the same time preserving continuity with the past or with the cultural climate and traditional environment of a region. Ando’s poetic dimension of silence should be understood as an art of building that is outstanding in design, unified in concept, and relevant to the future.
Here are 15 notable projects by Tadao Ando.
1. Azuma House, Osaka,(1975-1976) | Tadao Ando
Also known as the Sumiyoshi row house, it has a rectangular plan divided into three parts with rooms at the front and back, connected by a bridge, through the courtyard dedicated to the play of wind and light. Composed of an austere geometry and a solid concrete facade towards the street, it has no openings on the side walls.
He proposed a new lifestyle in co-existence with nature along with individual privacy. His objective, he says, was to challenge the inertia that has invaded our everyday lives.
2. Koshino House, Ashiya City, (1890-1981), (1983-1984)
The Koshino house consists of two parallel rectangular concrete boxes connected by a tunnel under the exterior staircase. The boldly curved study area was a later addition further complementing the space.
The house is such manifested that it does not hinder the existing natural setting as it is partially buried in the ground and has a commendable play of lights and shadows through various apertures in the walls and ceilings to create “architectural landscape” as he puts it.
3. Rokko Housing I, II, III, Kobe, (1981-1983), (1987-1993), (1997-1998)
The site was at a slope of 60 degrees, at the edge of the Rokko Mountains in Kobe. The idea was to create and strengthening the relationship between natural, public, and private spaces.
The first-phase complex is a 3D grid with 20 apartment units that step back on the hillside, using the roofs of lower levels as terraces.
The second complex based on the vertical overlapping of square grids has created unexpected views. Three types of gardens respectively private, communal, and the public in nature are provided in order to generate various communal relationships.
The third phase is a large project with the communal spaces between buildings designed as crisscrossing plazas.
4. Church of Light, Osaka, (1999) | Tadao Ando
It consists of a rectangular volume of three cubes punctured by a wall at a 15-degree angle that never actually touches the other walls or ceiling of the chapel. It is an architecture of duality – the dual nature of existence. The cruciform cut on the eastern wall allows light to enter the darkness induced by the use of concrete.
The church designed by Tadao Ando is a remarkable example of the architecture of minimalism creating a humble abode of peace and tranquillity. The use of concrete and the effect of light is so well thought that it stimulates the user to forget the outside world, giving a sense of oneness within the society.
5. Museum of wood, Hyogo, (1993-1994)
The museum is shaped like a truncated cone, enclosed with a circular pond in the middle of the timber pavilion, over which runs a suspended bridge, which takes the visitors inside.
It celebrates the relationship between humankind. “The flashes of light coincide with the close proximity of extinction: the object appears and takes the form at the edge between light and darkness,” he says.
6. Suntory Museum and Plaza, Osaka, (1992-1994)
The building consists of an overturned truncated cone volume intersected by solid bodies rectangular in shape. It houses an art gallery, a 3D IMAX cinema, several shops, and a restaurant. The walkway that surrounds the area, as well as the lobbies that overlook the space, allows us to clearly perceive the curvature of its volume.
It rests on the Mermaid Plaza featuring a series of pedestrian paths, ramps, and stairways and a semi-circular amphitheater allowing a close relationship with water being a daily part of our life. With this project, he once more worked on his favorite subject: the relationship between man, nature, and architecture.
7. Sayamaike Historical Museum, Osaka, (2001)
The structure is partially buried underground aligned with the gradual slope of the site. Following a path along the waters of Sayamaike, lined with cherry blossom trees, visitors pass a wall of rough granite blocks to arrive at a concrete plaza with cascading waterfalls and pools.
Tadao Ando decided to integrate the surrounding environment into the architecture, to create a place appropriate to the history that Sayamaike embraces, where the environment itself becomes a museum, as he said.
8. Pulitzer Foundation for arts, Missouri, (2015)
It is the institution that calls itself “a sanctuary for the ever-evolving experience of art”. Through carefully composed windows and a central water court, the building is suffused with natural light, inviting the outside world into dialogue with art and architecture.
It was built in 2001 and later additions in the form of galleries in the building’s lower level, are overlooking and looping the signature water feature with the aim of improving visitor movement, were done in 2015. The use of Concrete and wood is more prevalent, giving the new galleries the calmness and serenity Ando was striving for.
9. Water temple, Hyogo, (1999)
It has a passageway that divides a pool of water filled with lotuses: a symbol of Japanese tradition, in symmetrically two parts. The stillness of the water has a meditative effect and perhaps implications of spiritual cleansing.
The staircase in the passage with whitewashed walls leads to the sanctuary where the Amida Buddha statue resides. The central sanctum is all red-orange in color creating an aura of its own. This Japanese temple designed by Tadao Ando is an extraordinary example of the radically changing Japanese temple architectural style.
10. Awaji Yumebutai, Hyogo,(2000)
It consists of the International Conference Center that is surrounded in greenery, the Westin Awaji Island that offers rest and relaxation, restaurants and shops with a very close connection to nature, the Observation Terrace, Oval Forum and Circular Forum. It also includes the Kiseki no Hoshi Greenhouse, and outdoor theatre and Koryu no Tsubasa Port, which serves as the entrance from the sea.
It is a one-of-a-kind “environment creation” project equipped with facilities that blend in with the magnificent landscape that takes advantage of a dynamic slope.
11. 4×4 house, Hyogo (2003)
These are a pair of houses designed by Tadao Ando, based on a composition of plot size of 4 x 4 meters and the glass facade that adorns it to define its distinctive character.
They were built on a site very close to the epicenter of an earthquake. By creating a pair of similar structures, whose doors open toward the sea, but constructed from contrasting materials, concrete and wood, the connection of the architecture with the place is reinforced.
12. Naoshima Contemporary art Museum & Annex, Naoshima, (1995)
Located on a slope of a hill, the complex is divided into three sections. Immediately above the sea level lies a terrace gallery and above it the museum, hotel, restaurant, cafeteria, and lecture rooms. A small cable car leads to the annex arranged around an oval artificial pool.
The silence of architecture promotes the experience of living with nature. The design is based on the models of simple, symmetrical constructions.
13. Japan Pavilion Expo, Spain, (1992) | Tadao Ando
The pavilion aimed to acquaint people in the rest of the world with the traditional aesthetics of Japan based on unadorned simplicity, by reinterpreting wood architecture with leading-edge contemporary technology and create a building that embodied tradition and modernity, technology and culture. This pavilion was designed by Tadao Ando and constructed with materials, skills and workmen gathered from the United States, Europe, and Africa.
14. Fabrica research Center, Italy, (1993 to 1995)
The complex was a restoration of a Villa, which included the creation of study areas, laboratories, offices, facilities such as a library and auditorium, a cinema, meeting, and refreshment areas. The auditorium’s curved, bare concrete wall projects from the outer facade; towards the inner portico a large opening offers a view over the courtyard and the large pool on both sides of the new access path to the smaller barchessa.
Because of their particular character and dimensions, the transit areas play the role of both halls and galleries, waiting for areas and “places for communion and communication between people, history or nature”, said Tadao Ando.
15. 21 21 Design Sight Museum, Tokyo (2007)
Built-in collaboration with fashion designer Issey Miyake, it features a steel roof inspired by his “A Piece of Cloth” concept, which explores the relationship between the human body and clothing. The split-level building with glass walls is meant to act as a space for the examination of how design impacts daily life.
Working from the theme of an architectural design rooted in with nature, the main structure is underground creating a graceful space above ground.