Portrait picture of Janpanese architect Tadao Ando with a black turtle neck

Tadao Ando

Japanese self-taught architect

Tadao Ando (September 13, 1941, Osaka, Japan) is a Japanese self-taught architect who was born and raised in Osaka. At a young age, Tadao spent time in a carpenter’s shop across his home, learning the craft and making wood models of ships, airplanes, and moulds. While attending high school, he also worked as a truck driver and trained as a boxer. Inspired by the visit to the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, he traded his life of professional boxing to focus on architecture despite never having received formal training in the field. He attended drawing classes, took correspondence courses on interior design, and became familiar with the works of architects Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Kahn, among others, before returning to Osaka in 1968 and establishing his own design studio, Tadao Ando Architects and Associates. read more

Ando’s first design was the Tomishima House (1973) in Osaka. With an area of 65 square meters, it is bare and simple. The Tomishima House became the first in a series of homes Ando would design with similar architecture. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Ando worked on a series of small-scale residential buildings in Japan, such as the Azuma House and the Koshino House. His work later expanded beyond homes to apartment complexes, places of worship, museums, and shopping centers. Though described as “simple” and “minimalist” for its linear planes and complete lack of adornments, the quality of Ando’s work also resides in its notable attention to detail, especially in the way he incorporates concrete and the “smooth-as-silk” finish that he achieves with it. This level of traditional Japanese craftsmanship, known as “wooden shuttering,” creates a water-tight form to prevent holes and cracks on the surface. This trademark Ando technique includes visible, evenly spaced holes in the concrete as the result of bolts that hold the shuttering together. He also uses wooden or stone floors, large windows, and natural elements, such as rain, sun, and wind, to his advantage.

In 1990, Ando designed the Church of Light in Osaka. Cut out of a concrete wall behind the altar, a cruciform shape that is highlighted when daylight hits the outside of the wall projects a cross of light within the interior. It’s no wonder why when architecture admirers think of poetry, they think of Ando. He keeps his lines and shapes cut clean, geometric, and dramatic. He emphasizes the empty space and nothingness to represent the beauty of simplicity. His simplicity is influenced by the Japanese Zen religion and culture, which focus on simplicity and are concerned with inner feelings more than the outward appearance. By using concrete, Ando provides a sense of cleanliness and weightlessness; the space retains this aesthetic sensation due to the simplicity of the exterior, construction, and organization of the space.

Commissioned all around the world, Ando’s architectural works can be found all over Japan and in the cities of Chicago; Paris; Fort Worth, Texas; Mexico City; Monterrey, Mexico; Manchester, UK; Milan; New York City; Shanghai; Sevilla, Spain; and St. Louis, Missouri, among others.

In 2015, Tadao Ando disclosed that his gallbladder, spleen, bile duct, duodenum and pancreas were all extracted as part of a cancer treatment. In spite of this treatment, he has continued to design and teach at an unrelenting pace, and since then he has completed the Pearl Art Museum in Shanghai (2017), the 157 Elizabeth Street Condominiums in New York City (2018), and the Wrightwood 659 exhibition space in Chicago.

Ando has won a plethora of international awards, including the Carlsberg Architectural Prize (1992), the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1995), the Praemium Imperiale (1996), the Kyoto Prize and the AIA Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (2002), the Order of Culture from the Emperor of Japan (2010), and the Neutra medal for Professional Excellence from Pomona College (2012).

Last updated: July 19, 2019

For additional information on Tadao Ando, please visit Tadao Ando at The Pritzker Architecture Prize

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