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Tadao Ando: Light, Space And Sensibility

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  • Pages: 7
  • Word count: 1683
  • Category: Church

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            If there could be an architect who has surpassed such different genres of ideological proportions, it has got to be Tadao Ando. The pritzker prize winning architect is one of the most notable and most infamous architects of all time. His awesome ingenuity and the persistent growth of architectural ideas as seen thru his architectural works are evidently reflective of his greatness and influence to the young designers and aspiring architects of today.


            Given birth on the year 1941 during the September the 13th in Osaka, Japan, Tadao Ando lived his youth in the city of Osaka as he witnessed his country recuperating from the war. His grandmother raised him who also had “ando” as a name. When he younger, he worked as a carpenter and resulted for him to gain knowledge about wood and even resulted to his creations of airplane and ship models. When he was about the age of 18, he studied architecture by  just visiting buildings and experiencing them. Tadao Ando did buy a book about Le Corbusier’s sketches and was inspired by this great architect’s ideas.

             “Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.” Le Corbusier once proclaimed.  One person from other side of the world was strongly believed and understands how these elements are essences of architecture. He is Tadao Ando. Growing up in Japan at a difficult time when the Axis Power has just surrendered. He began to be interested in architecture by recopied some of Le Corbusier’s drawings at a used bookstore when he was fifteen. He was starting to develop his own language of architecture by a unique method, self-taught and travelled extensively. As Philip Jodidio said, although the influence on Ando of Le Corbusier and others such as Louis Kahn is often cited, his early projects are already very much a personal creation. (Jodidio 6) Ando believes, “that architecture should not speak too much. It should remain silent and let nature in the guise of sunlight and wind speak. Sunlight changes quality with the passage of time. It may gently pervade space at one moment, and stab through it like a blade at the next. At the same time it is almost as if one could reach out and touch the light.” With this be said, he uses these elements to create architecture in order to enrich user experiences, which he considered “a dialogue with human sensibility,”  (Ando 500) more that as functional shelters.

            Light is the origin of all things. Without light, our visual perception will render useless. Light gives objects outline, gathering shadow behind things, and gives depth to them.

As long as the sun is still burning, we can be assures the constant abundant flow of light for us to enjoy. But light have no means of constant when we know the earth orbiting and spinning. Ando define “light is, rather tremulous motion – out of its ceaseless transformation, light continually reinvents the world.” From sunrise from the east to skull burning heat at noon to sunset at the west. Ando create an enclosed concrete box to show the construction between lightness and darkness. Ando penetrate of light by cut a slot from those concrete walls to allow the light come from out side of the building. Church of the light consists of two rectangular volumes in a cross shape, that are both cut at 15 degree angles in a freestanding concrete wall to project light sharply fractures the darkness into the congregation.

            Tadao Ando’s body of work has been notorious for the constructive and imaginative utilization of natural light. By following the natural forms of the landscape, Ando is also known for this architectural conceptualizations.

             The initial impression of Tadao Ando’s architecture is materiality. The powerful and large walls of his works set a boundary. Tactility is the second impression of Ando’s works. Admitting light, soft to touch, expressing stillness, these are what his walls seems to impose on a person who sees or experiences his works. Emptiness is the third impression for the visitors of his buildings due to the light space of the building’s surroundings.

            But as he is notoriously famous internationally, Tadao Ando’s most noteworthy masterpieces are his religious buildings. He has designed several different structures of religion and contemplation, most of them Christian chapels. One notable building is the Church of the Light located in Baraki, Osaka which was completed in 1989. It is placed in a suburb that is residential, just 40 kilometers to north-east of the center of Osaka. Consisting from a concrete box that is rectangular in shape, crossed at 15 degrees angle by a wall that is freestanding. Tadao Ando gives importance to the entering of a building and how a person could experience the architecture and be aware of its concept or message. As he is popular, this building also has an emphasis on light and space.

            Located in Ibaraki, Tadao Ando’s Church of the Ligh is situated in a neighborhood that resides 25 kilometers of the northeast of Osaka. It can be described simply as an unsheathed concrete box having a wall cutting through it at a 15 degree angle. The densed cast-in-place walls assists on separating the religious experience within the little 113 square meter chapel from the world outside. The delineation between divine and profane is vital on this site, which does not allow much partition between the church itself and two streets.

            The experience begins with worshipers making their way past the existing minister’s house, to the back portion of the concrete church. The intersecting walls makes an entry forecourt, forcing the visitor to make an S-turn to be able to enter. On the tnside, the space is dominated of a glowing cross at the end of the nave.  The bare concrete walls have no decorations that would mitigate the experience.  The starkness creates an isolated, ascetic feeling inside the church.  The interior is perhaps claustrophobic, with views to the outside only available through the 20 cm gap in the concrete wall that is the cross.  The dominance of the cross is paramount in the church, requiring the pastor to preach from one side, which took some convincing on Ando’s part.

            Ando’s Church of the Light was of a very low-budget, where the absoluteness of the inside was necessary, and not so much an aesthetic choice.  The donation was made by the contractor for the construction of the roof when the funds ran out and the church pews are made of wood salvaged from the concrete formwork.  But still the simplicity of the church is its awesome beauty and a notably ordered,  focused space only steps apart from the workaday residential neighborhood nearly surrounding it.


            Utilizing nature and the surroundings, Tadao Ando has been one of the pioneers of ingenious and innovative architecture. As seen in the Church of the Light and the Church on the Water, Ando has made different utilizations of the environment and what’s usable enough to create beauty and functionality in a specific structure.

            Ando does not only create space but he also formulates an experience. A walking form of astonishing place that captivates each and every first-time users. The ingenuity behind the architecture of Tadao Ando has definitely separated him from the rest of the pack. His awesome ideas and the logical explanations behind each and every design has made an ordinary think and be hanging in awe.

            Tadao Ando has been one of the most influential architects of the modern generation. His awesome ideas and inspiring works about design has marked him as one of the greatest of all time. His style and conceptualizations about the utilization of light and space has created a following that garnered him as a very influential person in the field of Architecture. His masterpieces about religious structures presented a new approach towards the old typical religious building looks. His use of materials and the combination of light and airiness with regards to forms differentiates him from the rest of the pack.

            Remarkable is the exact word for Tadao Ando. Even if not having a background in architecture by missing an architectural degree, he still became one of the most successful and most notorious architects of all time. His respect for the other superior architects who preceded him and work ethic have made Tadao Ando an architect worth idolizing and respecting.

            The works of Tadao Ando has been the works that have provided a form of ideological revolution but not leaving the main concepts of architecture and its traditions.  His utilization of different aspects of space and mass has molded him as one of the few architects who defines distinction and can also be regarded as an architect of originality and sense. Tadao Ando definitely epitomizes his design through the use of light, air and sensibility. His architectural works of importance, has been given such due credit because of all of his incredible ideas and contributions to the world of architecture and design.

            The Pritzker prize of architecture is definitely deserving for him and there’s no other architect who should have it more than him. His design, philosophy, ideas, and contributions has made him as one of the elite architects or even one of the most elite people who walked this earth.


“Ando, Tadao.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2007.

Davey, P.  (1999). “Ando in Toto”. The Architectural Review. October, 60.

Muschamp, H. (1995.) “Among the Fountains with Tadao Ando; Concrete Dreams In the Sun   King’s Court”. New York Times. 21 September 1995.

Phillip, D. (1996). Church on the Water, Church of the Light: Tadao Ando. London: Phaidon,    p. 45.

“Prizker Prize.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2007.




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