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Tadao Ando is considered the architect that best represents the minimalist movement, which is made of pure shapes and essential elements.

He is the only architect to have won the discipline’s four most prestigious prizes: the Pritzker (1995), Carlsberg (1992), Praemium Imperiale (1996), and Kyoto Prize (2002).

Born in Osaka in 1941, Tadao Ando gave up his career as a professional boxer in 1965 in order to follow his passion for architecture. Therefore he decided to embark on a long journey around the world to teach himself the architectural profession.

This “grand tour” was precisely the beginning of his training as an architect, until he started his first architectural firm in his home city in 1969.


At the beginning of his career, most of his works were dedicated to the designing of single-family houses, among which we should mention Tomishima House in Osaka, that was built in 1973 and later housed the offices of his architectural firm.

Whereas in 1976 he designed a small row house, in which he expressed his will to bring changes in society by means of architectural works, in order to improve the awful housing conditions of the time.


With the designs of Azuma House in 1979 and Koshino House in 1980, one of the most important traits of the Japanese architect’s artistic philosophy of composition emerges, that is the wall.

The concept of the wall finds its full expression in Tadao Ando’s later religious projects.

The works by the Japanese architect are strongly influenced by the modern movement, especially by Le Corbusier’s artistic philosophy of composition, but this main influence is also accompanied by the connection with the Japanese traditional architecture, which lends an “artisanal” nature to Tadao Ando’s works, especially when it comes to finishing the details.

Tadao Ando gained international fame in the ‘80s, when he signed a number of projects including the Chapel of the Wind, built in 1986, the Chapel on the Water, built in Hokkaido in 1988, and the Church of Light.


It is no coincidence that these three works are dedicated to natural elements such as the wind, the water and the light. In these works, Tadao Ando merges the use of rational, minimalist shapes and the presence of natural elements which highlight the strength of its pure shapes.

The works by the Japanese architect almost exclusively consider the use of exposed reinforced concrete, combined with the use of wood, stone and, above all, light.

Tadao Ando’s meditative design draws our attention to the beauty in silence and the power of simplicity.

Light is used as a material, in order to give strength, life, personality to the project. The highest expression of the relationship between Tadao Ando and light as a compositional and material element is definitely the Church of Light.


The Church of Light consists of a reinforced concrete parallelepiped, in which one of the smaller walls, the one behind the altar, is not a full element. A cross-shaped beam of light indeed “cuts” the entire depth of the wall. This way, a cruciform light source is created, which is the only reference to religious symbolism in the liturgical hall.


church of light tadao ando

The Church of Light, located in Ibaraki in the metropolitan area of Osaka. It is one of the most famous architectures of Tadao Ando.


The orientation of the plan was designed so that this cut of light would be south-oriented and would therefore collect the most direct sunrays throughout the entire day.


The Water Temple is a greatly “destructive” sensory experience compared to the thousand-year-old temple-building tradition in Japan. Honpukuji, the Water Temple, was built between 1990 and 1991. This underground sanctuary was the residence of Japan’s oldest Tantric Buddhism cult, founded in 815, and is located under a large oval lotus pond. The resulting experience is totally immersive: the experience of being in an architectural space.


There are numerous works by Tadao Ando in Europe and America, of which the first one, both time-wise and in order of importance, is definitely the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Built between 1991 and 2001, this building stems from Joseph Pulitzer’s will to create a new space for his collection of modern and contemporary art within the Arts District in St. Louis, which was experiencing great decay.

Ando didn’t betray his artistic philosophy of composition when he created a building made of exposed reinforced concrete which, from the outside, looks like a massive, closed building, like some sort of safe for valuables, while indoors the large glass windows let the light as well as glimpses of the surrounding landscape come inside, thus accompanying the visitors throughout the exhibition itinerary.

In Europe, after the first creation of the Japan Pavilion for Expo 1992 in Seville, Tadao Ando created the new location for seminars at the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein.


In 2017, in New York, Tadao Ando completed the 152 Elizabeth, a seven-storey residential building in the heart of Nolita. That was the first work by the Japanese architect in the Big Apple. Developed by Sumaida + Khurana which aimed to create a unique architectural value, today the 152 Elizabeth has proven to be a benchmark for the quality of the residential development of that area. Cast-in-place concrete, burnished metal, wide use of glass and a wall of green plants: all of the main features of Tadao Ando’s philosophy are there.


For the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, the headquarters of the well-known company that manufactures designer pieces of furniture and furnishing accessories, Tadao Ando created the new location for seminars (1993). The building is located in front of the Vitra Museum designed by Frank O. Gehry, and is antithetical to it both in terms of position and in terms of linguistic approach.

Ando’s building consists of two floors, one of which is underground and includes a series of conference rooms. It’s a calm, sober intervention that is in line with the Japanese architect’s mindset and is characterized by a very neat spatial articulation.

One of the main features of this building is the path that leads to the entrance of the pavilion and has got a strong and meaningful connection with the meditation paths in the gardens of the Japanese monasteries. It’s a long wall made of exposed reinforced concrete that leads the visitor from the garden to the entrance. Since this building is immersed in an area of the campus garden that is full of cherry trees, Tadao Ando’s goal was to preserve as many trees as possible. Cherry trees are indeed very important in the Japanese tradition and, in order to recall the memory of the only three trees that were chopped down to erect the building, some leaves impressed in concrete were added to the exterior wall.


In his Venice projects, Tadao Ando had to deal with restoration works of historic buildings located in very important contexts, besides being crucial points of the City of Water.

At Palazzo Grassi he also had to face, besides a building overlooking the Grand Canal, a previous restoration intervention by the architect Gae Aulenti.

The project for Palazzo Grassi interprets the relationship between old and modern in a new way. For his exhibition itinerary inside the building, Ando imagined the interposition of some sort of hiatus, like an interruption of expression, represented by the white walls and the light grey flooring which stand for the “new”, in order to make the richness of old even more surprising by way of contrast.


The new centre for Contemporary Art Punta della Dogana of the François Pinault Foundation was opened in 2009. Tadao Ando’s intervention for this historic building overlooking a strategic spot of the city is the result of a thorough research aimed at reinventing the preexisting works, thus preserving the original structure while trying to best connect it with modernity.

The Punta della Dogana building is characterized by a simple, rational structure. Its volume creates a triangle, which is in line with the geographical conformation of the Dorsoduro island, while the inside is divided into long rectangles. The intervention aims to restore the first volumes, wherever possible, and to reestablish the original morphology of the load-bearing structures. Ando contrasts the original elements and materials with the use of glass plates and exposed reinforced concrete in order to create the connection between old and new.


As the final stage of François Pinault’s cultural project in Venice, in 2013 Tadao Ando also found himself working in the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi. The building was left in a state of neglect when the theatre closed in 1978, and Tadao Ando decided to intervene by keeping the façades intact, while the cladding and the interiors would be the true protagonists of the renovation.

Ando interprets indeed the inside of the theatre by planning all of those rooms that have nothing to do with the museum itself, but that are still relevant to the activity of Palazzo Grassi, such as conference rooms. The peculiarity of this intervention is precisely the dialogue between the outside of the historic building and the inside that unfolds into a series of rooms in which flat, shiny surfaces, asymmetric skylights and triangle cuts prevail, embracing the minimalist style.


A very important project Tadao Ando is working on is the Bourse de Commerce, the new museum commissioned by François Pinault that is going to host his art collection of the former Stock Exchange and should open in Paris in 2019.

The goal is to renovate an 18th century building in a modern way, to regenerate it and to transform it into a contemporary art museum. Like for the interventions of Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, Tadao Ando introduces new architectural elements so that the historic building can communicate with its new purpose.

Ando’s project is focused on the addition of a new volume, that is a homogeneous concrete cylinder under the dome of the historic building.

The dome is the distinctive element of the Bourse de Commerce building, and the new volume is placed under it precisely to highlight this peculiarity, in a constant dialogue between old and new.


Tomishima House Osaka Japan 1973
Uchida House Japan 1974
Uno House Kyoto Japan 1974
Hiraoka House Hyōgo Japan 1974
Shibata House Ashiya, Hyogo Japan 1974
Tatsumi House Osaka Japan 1975
Soseikan-Yamaguchi House Hyōgo Japan 1975
Takahashi House Ashiya, Hyōgo Japan 1975
Matsumura House Kobe Japan 1975
Sumiyoshi (Azuma House) Sumiyoshi, Osaka Japan 1976
Hirabayashi House Osaka Japan 1976
Bansho House Aichi Japan 1976
Tezukayama Square Sumiyoshi, Osaka Japan 1976
Tezukayama-Manabe House Osaka Japan 1977
Wall House (Matsumoto House) Ashiya, Hyōgo Japan 1977
Glass Block House (Ishihara House) Osaka Japan 1978
Okusu House Setagaya, Tokyo Japan 1978
Glass Block Wall (Horiuchi House) Sumiyoshi, Osaka Japan 1979
Katayama Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Japan 1979
Onishi House Sumiyoshi, Osaka Japan 1979
Matsutani House Kyoto Japan 1979
Ueda House Okayama Japan 1979
Passo Takamatsu, Kagawa Japan 1980
Matsumoto House Wakayama, zona di Wakayama Japan 1980
Fuku House Wakayama, Wakayama Japan 1980
Bansho House Addition Aichi Japan 1981
Koshino House Ashiya, Hyōgo Japan 1981
Kojima Housing (Sato House) Okayama Japan 1981
Oyodo Atelier Osaka Japan 1981
Tea House – Soseikan-Yamaguchi House Hyōgo Japan 1982
Ishii House Shizuoka Japan 1982
Akabane House Setagaya, Tokyo Japan 1982
Kujo Townhouse (Izutsu House) Osaka Japan 1982
Rokko Housing One Rokko, Hyōgo Japan 1983
Bigi Atelier Shibuya, Tokyo Japan 1983
Umemiya House Kobe Japan 1983
Kaneko House Shibuya, Tokyo Japan 1983
Festival Naha, Okinawa Japan 1984
Volte Kyoto Japan 1984
Koshino House Addition Ashiya, Hyōgo Japan 1984
Melrose, Meguro Tokyo Japan 1984
Uejo House Osaka Japan 1984
Ota House Okayama Japan 1984
Moteki Kobe Japan 1984
Shinsaibashi TO Building Osaka Japan 1984
Iwasa House Ashiya, Hyōgo Japan 1984
Hata Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Japan 1984
Atelier Yoshie Inaba Shibuya, Tokyo Japan 1985
Jun Island Kobe Japan 1985
Mon-petit-chou Kyoto Japan 1985
Guest House for Hattori House Osaka Japan 1985
Taiyō Cement Headquarters Building Osaka Japan 1986
TS Building Osaka Japan 1986
Rokko Church Kobe Japan 1986
Old / New Rokkov Kobe Japan 1986
Kidosaki House Setagaya, Tokyo Japan 1986
Fukuhara Clinic Setagaya, Tokyo Japan 1986
Sasaki House Minato, Tokyo Japan 1986
Main Pavilion for Tennoji Fair Osaka Japan 1987
Karaza Theatre Tokyo Japan 1987
Ueda House (restyling) Okayama Japan 1987
Church Tomamu, Hokkaido Japan 1988
Akka Gallery Osaka Japan 1988
Children Museum Himeji, Hyōgo Japan 1989
Church of Light Area di Ibaraki, Osaka Japan 1989
Collection Minato, Tokyo Japan 1989
Morozoff P & P Studio Kobe Japan 1989
Raika Osaka Japan 1989
Natsukawa Hikone, Shiga Japan 1989
Yao Clinic, Neyagawa Osaka Japan 1989
Matsutani House (restyling) Kyoto Japan 1990
Ito House, Setagaya Tokyo Japan 1990
Iwasa House Addition Ashiya, Hyōgo Japan 1990
Giardino delle Belle Arti Osaka Japan 1990
S Building Osaka Japan 1990
Water Temple Isola di Awaji, Hyōgo Japan 1991
Atelier Oyodo II Osaka Japan 1991
II Kyoto Japan 1991
Literature Museum Himeji, Hyōgo Japan 1991
Sayoh Housing Hyōgo Japan 1991
Minolta Seminar House Kobe Japan 1991
Benesse House Naoshima, Kagawa Japan 1992
Japanese Pavillon Expo 92 Siviglia Spain 1992
Otemae Art Center Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Japan 1992
Museum Forest of Tombs Kumamoto Japan 1992
Rokko Housing Two Rokko, Kobe Japan 1993
Vitra Seminar House Weil am Rhein Germany 1993
Noda Gallery Kobe Japan 1993
YKK Seminar House Chiba Japan 1993
Suntory Museum Osaka Japan 1994
Maxray Building Osaka Japan 1994
Chikatsu Asuka Museum Osaka Japan 1994
Kiyo Bank, Sakai Building Sakai, Osaka Japan 1994
Garden of Fine Art Kyoto Japan 1994
Wood Museum Kami, Hyōgo Japan 1994
Inamori Auditorium Kagoshima Japan 1994
Nariwa Museum Okayama Japan 1994
Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum Naoshima, Kagawa Japan 1995
Atelier Oyodo Annex Osaka Japan 1995
Nagaragawa Center Gifu Japan 1995
Naoshima Museum Art Contemporary Naoshima, Kagawa Japan 1995
Meditation Space, UNESCO Parigi France 1995
Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art Kyoto Japan 1995
Shanghai Pusan Ferry Terminal Osaka Japan 1996
Museum of Literature II, Himeji Hyōgo Japan 1996
Chiisaime Gallery (Sawada House) Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Japan 1996
Gojo Museum Gojo, Nara Japan 1997
Toto Seminar House Hyōgo Japan 1997
Natural Forest Museum – Yokogurayama Kōchi Japan 1997
Harima Kogen Higashi Primary School & Junior High School Hyōgo Japan 1997
Koumi Kogen Museum Nagano Japan 1997
Eychaner / Lee House Chicago, Illinois USA 1997
Daikoku Denki Aichi Japan 1998
Daylight Museum Shiga Japan 1998
Junichi Watanabe Memorial Hall Sapporo Japan 1998
Asahi Shimbun Okayama Bureau Okayama Japan 1998
Siddhartha Children and Women Hospital Butwal Nepal 1998
Church of the Light Sunday School Ibaraki, Osaka Japan 1999
Rokko Housing III ‘ Kobe Japan 1999
Shell Museum, Nishinomiya Hyōgo Japan 1999
Fabrica (Benetton Communication Research Center) Villorba Italy 2000
Awaji-Yumebutai Hyōgo Japan 2000
Rockfield Shizuoka Factory Shizuoka Japan 2000
Pulitzer Arts Foundation St. Louis, nel Missouri USA 2001
Komyo-ji Saijō, Ehime Japan 2001
Ryotaro Shiba Memorial Museum Higashiosaka, area di Osaka Japan 2001
Armani World Headquarters Milano Italy 2001
Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art Kobe, Hyōgo Japan 2002
Fort Worth Museum Art Contemporary Fort Worth, Texas USA 2002
Piccadilly Gardens Manchester UK 2003
4×4 House Kobe Japan 2003
Invisible House Ponzano Veneto Italy 2004
Chichu Art Museum Naoshima, Kagawa Japan 2004
Langen Foundation Neuss Germany 2004
Gunma Insect World Insect Observation Hall Kiryū, Gunma Japan 2005
Picture Book Museum Iwaki, Fukushima Japan 2005
Museo di Saka no Ue no Kumo Matsuyama, Ehime Japan 2006
Morimoto (restaurant) Chelsea Market, Manhattan USA 2005
Sakura Garden Osaka Japan 2006
Omotesando Hills, Jingumae 4-Chome Tokyo Japan 2006
House in Shiga Ōtsu, Shiga Japan 2006
21 21 Design Sight Minato, Tokyo Japan 2007
Stone Hill Center expansion for the Clark Art Institute Williamstown, Massachusetts USA 2008
Glass House Seopjikoji South Korea 2008
Genius Loci Seopjikoji South Korea 2008
Punta della Dogana (restoration) Venezia Italy 2009
Tokyo Skytree Tokyo Japan 2009
House, stable, and mausoleum for fashion designer and film director Tom Ford’s Cerro Pelon Ranch Santa Fe, New Mexico USA 2009
Rebuilding the Kobe Kaisei Hospital Nada Ward, Kobe Japan 2009
Gate of Creation, Universidad de Monterrey Monterrey Mexico 2009
NIWAKA Building Kyoto Japan 2009
Capella Niseko Resort and Residences Niseko, distretto di Abuta, Shiribeshi, Hokkaido Japan 2010
Interior design of Miklós Ybl Villa Budapest Hungary 2010
Kaminoge Station, Tokyu Corporation Tokyo Japan 2011
Centro Roberto Garza Sada of Art Architecture and Design Monterrey Mexico 2012
Akita Museum of Art Akita, Akita Japan 2012
Bonte Museum Seogwipo South Korea 2012
Asia Museum of Modern Art Wufeng, Taichung Taiwan 2013
Hansol Museum (Museum SAN) Wonju South Korea 2013
Aurora Museum Shanghai China 2013
Visitor, Exhibition and Conference Center, Clark Art Institute Williamstown, Massachusetts USA 2014
Casa Wabi Puerto Escondido, Oax Mexico 2014
JCC (Jaeneung Culture Center) Seoul South Korea 2015
Hill of the Buddha Sapporo Japan 2015
Pearl Art Museum Shanghai China 2017
152 Elizabeth Street Condominiums New York, New York USA 2018
Wrightwood 659 Chicago USA 2018


In Tokyo, at National Archives of Modern Architecture, until September 23, 2019 is available a very interesting exhibition dedicated to Tadao Ando early drawings.
His first architectural materials, the hand-drawn plans and sketches from the 1970s, can be seen.
The projects presented the main masterpieces in Japan, such as the Row House in Sumiyoshi (1976), the Koshino House (1981), Rokko Housing Ⅰ (1983), Time’s Ⅰ (1984), the Kidosaki House (1986), the Church on the Water (1988), and the Church of the Light (1989).


Photo credits:
Tadao Ando (header)=Christopher Schriner (Wikipedia)
Church of Light=Bergmann (Wikipedia)

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