Today we celebrate the master of concrete and light's 76th birthday.
Honestly, I really hate the term "starchitect" (thank goodness we are moving past it), but if you just had to use the term, chances are you would use it to describe Tadao Ando. For nearly fifty years, Ando has pushed the boundaries of architecture, creating a disciplined and contemplative concrete modernity. His minimalist structures feel both monumental and meditative. His simple geometry, smooth materials, and complex command of light reinvent the traditions of Japanese architecture within the open, universal language of Modernism. I won't even pretend to do his biography or scope of work justice, but I couldn't resist sharing a few facts (or 10) to celebrate Ando's extraordinary career.
1. Based in Osaka, Japan. Born and raised in Osaka, Ando returned to his native city to open his own practice after traveling extensively as a young man. Osaka, Japan's second largest metropolitan area, remains home base for the architect and his thriving practice. You can see his studio here.
2. Self-taught. Like many of our most influential architectural minds (Wright, Mies, Sullivan, etc.), Tadao Ando never sought a formal education. Instead, he learned the profession through a series of informal apprenticeships, night classes, and extensive travel to noteworthy buildings across the globe. Oh, and before he found fame as an architectural icon, Ando worked as a truck driver and a professional boxer.
3. Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier were early influences. Ando credits a visit to Wright's Imperial Hotel in Tokyo for his start in architecture. But it's another Modern giant, Le Corbusier, whose work with light and concrete clearly informs Ando's approach to material and form.
4. The Row House in Sumiyoshi launched his career. One of Ando's first designs, the diminutive Row House (also known as the Azuma House) (1976), a modern concrete box with a heroic sense of purpose (i.e. altering the individual consciousness to bring about social change) earned him a design award from the Japanese Architectural Association. Still one of his best-known projects, the rather severe modern interpretation of a traditional wooden house garnered him an international following.
5. Deemed a "critical regionalist" by historians. Attempting to reconcile modernity and tradition, Tadao Ando developed an architecture defined by both the universal vocabulary of Modernism and the enclosed realm of the individual. Tied to the geographical and cultural context of his native Japan, Ando's architecture seeks the revelatory quality of light, material, and form to bridge the gap between regional expression and international order.
6. Known for his spiritual architecture. With his mastery of light, concrete, and the natural world, Ando's best known works attempt to provide an individual experience. His designs for sacred architecture in particular, like the churches of the Water (1988) and the Light (1989), fully embrace his visual and physical incorporation of natural elements to reveal an immersive spiritual awareness.
7. Won the Pritzker Prize in 1995. The Jury praised Ando as "that rare architect who combines artistic and intellectual sensitivity in a single individual capable of producing buildings, large and small, that both serve and inspire."
8. Has worked all over the world. While his designs are primarily located in Japan, Ando has increasingly worked in other countries. Notable projects in the United States include the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2002), the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis (2001), and the recently completed 152 Elizabeth in New York City.
9. After five decades in architecture, Ando is still in demand. He lectures, teaches at prestigious universities, and still designs widely acclaimed buildings (like this lavender-covered temple).
10. But not everyone appreciates his vision. Earlier this year, the Manchester City Council approved the demolition of Ando's Piccadilly Gardens pavilion, the architect's only building in the UK. Confusingly (at least to this historian), the pavilion is only fifteen years old and has been left to decline. (Brutalists unite!)
You can read more about the architect here. But until next time- Happy Birthday, Tadao Ando!
Image at the top:
Photograph by 633highland [GFDL(http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or
CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.