Philosophers and writers use words to express thoughts and make other people think. The power of words over reality is immense. Like any kind of art, architecture is expressive through its own media, which are space, color, form, and light. Concrete walls of Tadao Ando’s creations tell the audience his views on the word (“Concrete Intentions of Tadao Ando” n. p.). The personality of Tadao Ando deserves interest. This Japanese architect personally proved that it is possible to succeed in a profession by simply being talented, even without proper education. The Pritzker Prize confirms that the world recognized Ando’s identity and exceptionalism in the architecture. His architectural style can be called self-taught critical regionalism (Ando 9). The buildings of Tadao have much light and open space. He adheres to the natural landscape shapes in his designs. The essay researches the life and works of Tadao Ando, who was heavily influenced by his origins, education, and ethnical identity.
Origins and education of Tadao Ando are the most significant elements that influenced his main works and personal artistic style. Tadao was born in Osaka in 1941 during a difficult time (Frampton n. p.). He grew in a house of his grandmother, where he was educated and found his first occupation (Frampton n. p.). At an early age, he understood the basics of manual labor as a glazier in a craft workshop (Seferin n. p.). He also had the experience of building a hut in the house of his grandmother. Later, the glazer craft and early experience in building helped Ando to find his path in life. When he reached 17, he began his professional boxing career and participated in matches in Thailand. It instilled in him a fighting spirit and the ability to achieve goals despite the obstacles (Seferin n. p.). Afterwards, aided by his exemplary work ethic and sense of purpose, Tadao Ando studied architecture by reading books and travelling. 24-year-old Ando went on a four-year journey around the world, with the aim of exploring world architecture and seeing the works of Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Kahn (Seferin n. p.). During the trip, he visited Moscow and other European cities. The journey enriched his worldview. Ando experienced European architecture with its ancient traditions and multitudinous styles. Thus, when he decided to become an architect, the lack of professional education did not seem to interfere. On his return from the world tour in 1969, Tadao Ando established his office “Architect & Associates.” Only the lack of official document forced him to receive an official degree. Ando borrowed spacious designs with glass and open spaces with elements of clear perfectionism from his European journey. The first impression of his architecture is materiality. Ando’s pieces of art are huge, impressive, with large walls. The second impression of his work is tactility. Solid walls seem soft. They easily receive and absorb the light, wind, and express stillness. It is clear in the first NYC building constructed by Ando: “The green wall, measuring 55-feet-high and 99-feet-wide and spanning the entire southern façade, is expected to be one of the largest in New York” (Rosenfield n. p.). The third impression is emptiness, because the light is the only thing which decorates the buildings created by Tadao Ando. While his works are obviously modern architecture, the audience can still feel the influence of Japanese culture in them. Moreover, his buildings are mostly constructed from concrete, which makes one wonder why he chooses to use concrete as the major material in almost all of his designs.
In every project, it is clear that he appreciates history, but they do not tire viewers like postmodernist works do. Tadao Ando creates robust buildings of glass and concrete, which are unusually calm and simple. The project “Row House in Sumiyoshi” is a tiny building made from concrete. It was constructed in 1976. It is one of the first famous works of Ando. It demonstrates elements typical for his personal style and shows the European influence. The house consists of three equivalent parts, where two closed parts of the interior are separated by an open courtyard. Le Corbusier was the main inspiration for Tadao Ando (Frampton n. p.). Ando’s works are full of freedom of thought and dreams thanks to him. He showed how architecture can talk to people. His works showed that the architecture can be a public matter, not just a private one.
From the minimalism, which came to Europe from USA, Tadao Ando borrowed the main concept of his buildings. Minimalism in its extreme expression aims to completely eliminate the use of decorative items assuming that it is sufficient to have walls and a roof, and limit the furnishings to a bed and a table. Minimalist buildings, however, can be quite complex due to the nature and potential of the material. Modular concrete structures, which were brought into vogue by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, suggest a strict, geometric approach. The use of reinforced concrete and plastic allows to embody a concise form. However, basic requirements must be fulfilled in any case. Regardless of the complexity, the problem need to be solved with minimal details. All the attention is given to the three-dimensional solutions, as perfection does not need additional decorations. The European roots can be seen clearly in the project 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo. The symmetry and accuracy are the main elements of European classicism. The material and the simple shape of the building make the temperature go down when the audience is in the glass building (“Concrete Intentions of Tadao Ando” n.p.). The interior of the museum 21_21 Design Sight was constructed in 2007 and is also very laconic. Tadao Ando has worked on it, along with another famous Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake. They wanted to create a space, which would not only be an exhibition area, but also a research center for the study of future designers and architects. In Europe, Ando had seen similar laconic and futuristic objects from glass and concrete. The buildings have an idea of simplicity and fundamentality, which occurs through the use of bare concrete. The simplicity and severity are set in stone. They are concentrated and motionless like most places for meditation. Due to this outward simplicity, the audience can feel the whole aesthetic sensations.
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In 1995, Tadao Ando won the Pritzker Prize for his original style and great capacity for work. Today, he is a reputable and successful architect. His talent and recognition are confirmed by numerous national and international awards. Tadao has once expressed a beautiful, metaphorical statement. He compared the city to a jewelry box and said that he wants to fill it with precious stones. His dream is to change the appearance of cities from the inside. Ando believes that architecture can change society. Changing homes, people change themselves and transform their environment.
The ethnical identity of Tadao Ando also had a significant influence on his inimitable style. His projects are imbued with harmony. They have much light and natural motifs, which means the use of natural landscape forms in architecture rather than violating the area to meet the demands of projects. Ando’s creativity is exceptional. His buildings are often characterized by complex, three-dimensional way of circulation, because they are intertwined with the inner and outer space, forming large figures. It seems that the author wants to create a maximum visibility for the contemplation of the world with its changing seasons and weather. It is worth noting that such an approach is the basis of national architecture in Japan. For example, a residential complex in Rokko near Kobe is a complex maze of terraces, balconies, and atriums. Design of Rokko One (1983) and Rokko Two (1993) illustrates the wide range of the traditional architectural vocabulary of Japan, The buildings are firm with emptiness of space, closed and open alternatives, the contrast of light and darkness (Frampton n. p.). More importantly, these cluster buildings withstood the earthquake in Kobe in 1995 (Goldberger n. p.). The medieval Japanese architecture was mostly wooden. In Ando’s works, the main characteristic feature of Japanese architecture is the connection of building with the surrounding landscapes – water surfaces, vegetation, and topography.
However, Ando’s projects do not copy well-established traditions. He brings something unique into his work. Ando developed the Japanese roots of modernism. Ando is not characterized by one architectural style. Everything he does comes from himself, allowing to create completely different and original buildings. Church of Water and Light, Suntory museum, and Palace for Children in Hyogo are among his famous works. Additionally, Ando’s authorship extends to the design of the Japanese Pavilion for the International Exhibition of 1992 in Spain. He built a Japan Pavilion for Expo-92 from unpainted wood, and the world recognized not only the styling of Japanese temples, but also a trace of Russian Constructivism. He showed the value of the modernist heritage of the West (Zeballos n.p.).
In conclusion, Tadao Ando constructs complicated internal structures and complex ideologies in fundamental buildings with minimalist, innovative and functional forms. Through the use of glass and concrete and creation of open spaces with a lot of daylight, Ando borrowed from the European architectural tradition, which experimented with different materials and forms. However, inside he always remains truly Japanese. Despite exploring Western architecture, Ando retains his uniqueness as a person from the other side of the planet and as a self-taught artist. This is a rare case of brand new vision without limitations of classical architectural education. The authors origins, education, and ethnical identity are the main elements which influenced his personal style. The combination of European self-education and traditional Japanese philosophy created a unique artistic style of Tadao Ando, who was recognized as an inimitable and exceptional architect in 1995.