Tadao Ando (born September 13, 1941, in Osaka, Japan) is a Japanese architect and winner of the Pritzker Prize. He works primarily in exposed cast-in-place concrete and is renowned for an exemplary craftsmanship which invokes a Japanese sense of materiality and a spatial narrative through the pared aesthetics of international modernism.
The first impression of his architecture is its materiality. His large and powerfull walls set a limit. A second impression of his work is the tactility. His hard walls seem soft to touch, admit light, wind and stillness. Third impression is the emptiness, because only light space surround the visitor in Tadao Ando's building.
Ando is an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as the Royal Academy of Arts in London. He was also a visiting professor at Yale, Columbia, UC Barkley, and Harvard Universities.
From the age of 10 to 17 Tadao Ando worked at local carpenter, where Tadao Ando learned how to work with wood and built a number of models of airplanes and ships. His studying was very unusual. "I was never a good student. I always preferred learning things on my own outside of class. When I was about 18, I started to visit temples, shrines and tea houses in Kyoto and Nara; There's a lot of great traditional architecture in the area. I was studying architecture by going to see actual buildings, and reading books about them."
His first interest in architecture was nourished by Le Corbusier sketches. "I traced the drawings of his early period so many times, that all pages turned black," says Tadao Ando: "in my mind I quite often wonder how Le Corbusier would have thought about this project or that." When he visited Marseilles, Ando recalls visiting Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation, and being intrigued by the dynamic use of concrete. Although concrete (along with steel and glass) is Ando's favorite material, he has used wood in a few rare projects, including the Japan Pavilion for the Expo'92 in Spain.
Tadao Ando undertook a number of visits to the United States, Europe and Africa in the period between 1962 and 1969. It was certainly at that time that Tadao Ando began to form his own ideas about architectural design, before founding Tadao Ando Architectural & Associates in Osaka in 1969.
Tadao Ando's body of work is known for the creative use of natural light and for architectures that follow the natural forms of the landscape (rather than disturbing the landscape by making it conform to the constructed space of a building).
The architect's buildings are often characterized by complex three-dimensional circulation paths. These paths interweave between interior and exterior spaces formed both inside large-scale geometric shapes and in the spaces between them.
The New York Times architectural critic Paul Goldberger argues convincingly that "Ando is right in the Japanese tradition: spareness has always been a part of Japanese architecture, at least since the 16th century and it is not without reason that Frank Lloyd Wright more freely admitted to the influences of Japanese architecture than of anything American." Like, Wright's Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, which did survive the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, site specific decision-making, anticipates seismic activity in Ando's several Hyogo-Awaji buildings.
Ando's concrete is often referred to as "smooth-as-silk." He explains that the quality of construction does not depend on the mix itself, but rather on the form work into which the concrete is cast. Because of the tradition of wooden architecture" in Japan, the craft level of carpentry is very high. Wooden form work, where not a single drop of water will escape from the seams of the forms depends on this. Watertight forms are essential. Otherwise, holes can appear and the surface can crack.
His form moulds, or wooden shuttering (as it is called in Japan), are even varnished to achieve smooth-as-silk finish to the concrete. The evenly spaced holes in the concrete, that have become almost an Ando trademark, are the result of bolts that hold the shuttering together. Ando's concrete is both structure and surface, never camouflaged or plastered over.
Although Ando has a preference for concrete, it is not part of the Japanese building tradition. "Most Japanese houses are built with wood and paper," he explains, "including my own. I have lived there since I was a child. It is like my cave, I'm very comfortable there." He explained that he was the firstborn of twin boys. When he was two, it was decided that his maternal grandmother would raise him, and he was given her name, Ando. They first lived near the port of Osaka before moving to where he lives today.
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