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Tadao Ando and his minimalist architecture

Tadao Ando is considered one of the most influential architects of our time. His style is characterized by a simple and minimalist architecture. With many buildings to its credit, this atypical architect has created unique projects.

In Osaka, his hometown, there are many of his best known works. When talking about Tadao Ando, ​​one of the most surprising things about him and his ability to design is that he has never followed official studies in architecture.

Long before he devoted himself to architecture, Ando did various jobs, including the boxer. The crucial moment, when he decided to devote himself to architecture, was during a trip to Tokyo where he met and admired the Imperial Hotel designed by the famous architect Frank Lloid Wright.

He is an extraordinary self-taught. Buy second-hand architecture books, take design courses in the evening and study interior design at a distance. Traveling was extremely important for Tadao Ando, ​​as it allowed him to see and learn about wonderful buildings all over the world.

Tadao Ando’s minimalist architecture: life and works

Photo by Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando was born in Osaka in 1941. During his youth he practiced boxing in an amateur way, but hung his gloves on the wall when he decided to devote himself to architecture. His notions on architecture come mainly from reading and travel.

He travels to many countries, Africa and Europe, and also visits the United States of America. As part of his education, he studied in depth traditional Japanese architecture. In 1968 he returned to Japan and founded the Tadao Ando Architects & Associates in Osaka, his hometown.

1976 is an important year for Tadao Ando. In fact, he received the award of the Japanese Architecture Association for his project for the Azuma House in Osaka. Thanks to this project, he attracted the world’s attention to him.

The house expresses its austere and minimalist style. With only 65 square meters available, it manages to masterfully organize the essential spaces of the house. Moreover, he manages to cross the border between the patio and the interior of the building inspired by the concepts of traditional Japanese architecture.

This project is followed by that of the residential complex Rokko Housing I, built in Kobe e thanks to which it becomes a reference point for world architecture. He was invited to teach at the University of Tokyo and continued teaching at Yale, Harvard and Columbia University.

Tadao Ando admits that his work is the result of a double influence, traditional Japanese architecture and that of the modern movement. From traditional Japanese architecture he takes inspiration from the houses of the Osaka district where he grew up and the traditional Japanese temples.

As for modern architecture, his major influences come from the works of Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe and Louis I. Kahn. Furthermore, there are elements that come from brutalism and minimalism.

People tend not to use the word beauty because it is not intellectual, but there must be an overlap between beauty and intellect.

-Tadao Ando-

Tadao Ando’s minimalist architecture: the main works

House exterior with pool

Tadao Ando combines forms and materials of modern architecture with the Japanese aesthetic tradition. His designs integrate perfectly with the surrounding environment, looking like a part of the landscape.

This architect is a lover of materials in their natural form. For this reason, in his buildings he prefers exposed concrete with visible formwork signs.

His projects are sober and austere and reject the consumerist materialism of our times. He uses modern materials, but avoids unnecessary ornaments by creating simple buildings.

He is also a lover of nature and uses, for example, light or water to give greater expressiveness to his projects. The mastery with which he built his buildings earned him the Pritzker Prize in 1995.

Chapel on Mount Rokko, Kobe, Japan

Outside chapel on Mount Rokko

The chapel on Mount Rokko is a structure that is part of a hotel used for the celebration of weddings. It has a privileged location, as it offers splendid views over Osaka Bay.

Also in this case, he applies the basic principles of his architecture. We can find a simple geometry, the play of light and shadow and the exposed concrete used together with metal and glass to create architectural modules studied in detail. The project is completed with a careful use of natural, direct and indirect lighting.

In this chapel there is a bell tower, an element of western architecture, which plays a fundamental role. The vertical bell tower represents for Tadao Ando an element of rupture with the horizontality of the building.

The Church of Light, Ibaraki, Japan

Interior of the church of light by Tadao Ando

This small church is located in the city of Ibaraki, just outside of Osaka, Japan. It is, without a doubt, one of the most emblematic architectural works of Tadao Ando.

The so-called Church of Light blends perfectly with the surrounding landscape. Light enters its main environment becoming the absolute protagonist of that space.

Built in 1989, it replaces the old Catholic church located in the same place. The Church of Light is the result of the game between full and empty, light and dark, movement and calm.

The interior space is illuminated by small cracks that, in addition to being windows, are part of the building’s composition. Furthermore, above the altar we find an opening in the shape of a cross that allows natural light to filter through, creating a poetic atmosphere.

This church stands out for its austerity and moves away from the classic models of this construction which, in general, are rich in ornaments.

The Chapel on the Water, Hokkaido, Japan

Inside chapel on the water by Tadao Ando

This chapel is located in the town of Tomamu, in the remote island of Hokkaido, north of Japan. Even in this case, Ando applies his principles of austerity and sobriety.

The beauty of this chapel is based on its relationship with the surrounding natural environment. In this project Tadao Ando creates an almost perfect connection between the building and nature. The Chapel on Water is one of the most successful examples of this architect. In this work Ando manages to express, by combining them, his concepts on the profane, the sacred, the void and the infinite.

The composition of the building is based on the intersection of two volumes: a square-based prism with a 15-meter side and a cube with 10-meter long sides. These two volumes share an area forming another cube of 5 meters per side.

In front of the chapel there is a pond that has the size of a rectangle of 45 x 90 meters. The latter is divided into four 15-meter platforms that create a virtual enclosure. The pond is an area of ​​water visible from inside the chapel. In this way, visitors establish visual (and not physical) contact between the chapel and nature.

Tadao Ando’s minimalist architecture pays special attention to the spiritual dimension. Furthermore, nature plays a fundamental role in the work of this master of design.

Tadao Ando is deeply convinced that within this chaotic and noisy world, spaces can be created that are transcendent of serenity and spirituality.

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