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Tadao Ando (Japanese, born 1941)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

Japanese architect. Between 1962 and 1969 he travelled extensively, studying first-hand the architecture of Japan, Europe, America and Africa. In 1969 he founded his own practice in Osaka. An inheritor of the Japanese anti-seismic reinforced-concrete tradition, Andō became one of the leading practitioners in this genre. Capable of using fair-faced, precision-cast reinforced-concrete walls to maximum effect, he created a uniquely minimalist modern expression, yielding an architecture of very firmly bounded domains. He spoke of using ‘walls to defeat walls’, by which he meant deploying the orthogonal, strictly geometric volumes of his earlier work as a way of resisting the empirical, not to say random, chaos of the average Japanese megalopolis. To this end most of his early houses are highly introspective; notable examples include two houses in Sumiyoshi, Osaka: the award-winning, diminutive terraced Azuma House (1976) and the Glass Block Wall House (1979), built for the Horiuchi family. The latter is a courtyard house that gains light and views solely from its small internal atrium. The Koshino House (1981), built in the pine-wooded, upper-class suburbs of Ashiya (Hyōgo Prefecture), takes a more open courtyard form, but again, as in all of Andō’s subsequent work, its subtle beauty stems from the ever-changing impact of natural light on its concrete surfaces. As in the in-situ concrete Sōseikan tea house added to the Yamaguchi House, Takarazuka (Hyōgo Prefecture), in 1982, Andō never alluded to the Japanese tradition directly but always instead to the qualities of both half-muted and sharply contrasting light in which this tradition is steeped.

Andō’s later work opened up towards the surrounding landscape, particularly where he worked on sites graced with spectacular views over mountainous escarpments and the ocean. This more expansive spirit runs as a continuous theme in his architecture after 1983, the year in which he completed his stepped Rokko Housing, Kobe, reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Roy et Rob project of 1946. This new-found topographic poetic is patently evident in his Mt Rokko Chapel (1986), Kobe, and in the later Chapel-on-the-Water and Chapel of Light (both completed between 1988 and 1990), Ibaraki; in the latter a huge cruciform shape was cut out of the concrete wall behind the altar so that the morning sun creates a cross of light. After completing more than 50 buildings in 15 years, Andō began to adopt a more public caste in his work, as is evident from his Children’s Museum (1990), Hyōgo. At this juncture his strict geometry opened up a little, admitting cylindrical forms and diagonal episodes in conjunction with the highly contoured sites on which he worked. Like many other Japanese architects, Andō sought a synthesis between archaic values and modern technology. To this end, eschewing fashionable form and ironic comment, he aspired to an architecture that would be as symbolic and laconic as the traditional Japanese haiku form in poetry.

Kenneth Frampton
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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