[Tadao] Ando's drawings are like a hieroglyphic map that if read properly does not lead one to the buried treasure but becomes the treasure itself.
The Chikatsu-Asuka Historical Museum, Osaka, designed by Tadao Ando, is dedicated to exhibiting and researching artifacts of the Kofun and Asuka periods of Japanese culture, from the fourth to the seventh century A.D. The museum is located in a region containing over 200 burial mounds, or kofun, from that era, and there are a number of archaeological sites in the building's immediate neighborhood, which has been designated a historical park. As far as possible, then, Ando's design preserves the park's topography, altering it minimally through the use of architectural elements that serve more than one function: the building's roof doubles as sets of stairs leading up to an observation tower and plaza, together constituting stepped viewing platforms from which to look at the tombs in their natural surroundings. The concept focuses, Ando has said, "on architecture's power to produce a new landscape": like a large berm, the museum becomes an integral part of the landscape that the museum also serves to exhibit.
Inside the building, objects excavated from the burial mounds are exhibited in a darkened interior, evoking the interiors of the tombs in which they were discovered. Ando's use of concrete as a construction material recalls the work of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, his architectural mentors, yet he combines this preference with a Japanese aesthetic of contrast-light and dark, interior and exterior, enclosed and expansive, hard and soft, nature and city, east and west. The subtle interplay of these opposites in Ando's buildings produces rich environments, and some of this is captured in the drawing: the hard-edged graphite lines marking the imposed, man-made structure offer a counterpoint to the softer shades of color depicting the enveloping landscape that Ando seeks to echo.
Publication excerpt from Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, pp. 230-231.