Tadao Ando: The Challenge of Dreamy Youth

Church On The Water, 1988. Photography: Yoshio Shiratori
Portrait of Tadao Ando. Photo by Kazumi Kurigami.
Koshino House, 1981-84. Photography: Shinkenchiku Sha
Church On The Water, 1988. Photography: Yoshio Shiratori
Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima, 2004. Photo by Tadao Ando Architect & Associates.
TOP
768
42
0
 
4
Jan
4
Jan
COBO Challenge
Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect Tadao Ando is the subject of an exhibition at Paris’ Pompidou Centre, a compact yet content-rich meander through an acclaimed five decade career. Within Ando’s oeuvre, angles become organic, concrete becomes weightless – this is a mission in which geometry is pursued to near abstraction. In conversation with French curatorial luminary Frédéric Migayrou, the 77 year old is on pugnacious form: “Pursuing substance, form and geometry… Something young people do not understand, but it’s the most important thing there is…”

TEXT: Nicholas Stephens
IMAGES: Courtesy of Paris’ Pompidou Centre

Portrait of Tadao Ando. Photo by Kazumi Kurigami.

 

A stroll through this captivating retrospective (entitled: “Tadao Ando: The Challenge”) is less a statement of inter-generational strife, and more a journey of harmony and balance. Vivacious subtleties of triangle, square and circle (the Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima), or trompes l’oeil of earth, sea and air (Benesse House, Naoshima (1995), or Church on the Water (1988)) are presented in photograph and immersive video, wooden model and sketched drawing.

Ando was first a boxer, before an auto-didactic odyssey in his early 20s, travelling the world to seek the inspiration and knowledge that would guide him into his architectural calling. Having founded Tadao Ando Architect and Associates in 1969, he went on to be the subject of exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Art Centre in Tokyo. His gold medal wins are embarrassingly numerous, the pinnacle being the Pritzker Prize in 1995.

 

Koshino House, 1981-84. Photography: Shinkenchiku Sha

 

The challenge of the title refers to Tadao Ando’s first commission, a residential dwelling in Osaka of 1970, known as Guerrilla House. Rather than acknowledge the construction as a kind of manifesto, Ando refers to it instead simply as a challenge. At the time, he argues, architecture was solely for public buildings, for grand scale undertakings, certainly not a word one would use in connection with a mere home. The challenge was to prove ongoing, as Guerrilla House was to be bought by Ando and continues to be used as the home of his architecture practice, having undergone six radical redesigns as business expanded.

Ando’s work is a dreamy sight here in Paris’ 4th arrondissement: there is a sense of other-worldliness which calls to mind places half-remembered, imaginary, longed-for. What Yeats might have termed: “a song of old earth’s dreamy youth.” This unity of the physical and the spiritual (referred to by the architect by the Japanese word shintai) is a leitmotif of Ando’s work, not just in the religious commissions (Church of the Light (1989), Church on the Water (1988)) but in his entire approach and philosophy. An architect of great renown, many of the greatest examples of his work (including two penthouses in Manhattan) are so discreet they are almost invisible. His constructions make bold, transformative statements whilst merging, blending in, or perhaps being born from their surroundings. This is a boxer whose buildings float like a butterfly.

 

Church On The Water, 1988. Photography: Yoshio Shiratori

 

Exhibition Room Three’s light-filled display is organized around highlight pieces of Ando’s career (during which 300 of his projects have been realized), including Azuma House at Sumiyoshi (1976), Naoshima (1988 onwards), Church of the Light (1989) and the forthcoming Commercial Exchange / Bourse de Commerce in Paris (slated for 2019). Dotted around these are documentary photos from Ando’s world tour of the late 1960s (subtly reminiscent of Fan Ho’s celebrations of light and shadow), and colourful sketches which nod towards suprematism.

An expansive yet intimate cocoon of screens is dedicated to Naoshima, an island known principally for James Bond (“You Only Live Twice” was filmed here in the 1960s) and latterly, imposingly, for Tadao Ando, whose construction of art hotel /museum Benesse House, and underground Chichu Art Museum, has turned the 3,000 person island into a destination of artistic interest. As the camera swoops over the organic curves of the island, it is hard to imagine Ando operating in its polar opposite, say the heart of a Haussmannian or Renaissance European city – and yet, close by, there are models of Paris and Venice where the strictures of city-wide architectural coherence have served as Ando’s springboard, classical forms blossoming into new light and space.

 

Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima, 2004. Photo by Tadao Ando Architect & Associates.

 

Experiencing “Tadao Ando: The Challenge,” is to be simultaneously faced by the real and the unreal; at once anchored by buildings in specific cities, whilst being led into abstraction and even introspection. In our everyday joys, upheavals, challenges, how do any of us marry strength with lightness of touch, spirituality with stern resolve, the concrete with the natural? Ando’s architectural philosophy educates us on voids which are figurative as much as literal, whilst his constructions beguile us with visions of other worlds. Five decades in, we are all still learning.

 

 

About the architect

Tadao Ando is a self-taught architect born in 1941 in Osaka, Japan. He made numerous visits to study great examples of existing architecture in the United States, Europe and Africa in the years between 1962 and 1969, before establishing Tadao Ando Architectural & Associates in Osaka in 1969.

The combination of concrete with the embrace of natural elements, such as sun, rain, and wind are a recognizable component of his style. Recent architectural works include Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis, Missouri (2001); Armani Teatro, Milan, Italy (2001); Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2002), and Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima, Japan (2004). He is the winner of the Gold Medal of Architecture from the Académie d’Architecture (1989); The Pritzker Architecture Prize (1995); the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects (2002), and the Gold Medal from the Union Internationale des Architectes (2005). He 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. Before 2018’s exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, he was the subject of an exhibition at the same institution in 1993.

 

 


 

Nicholas Stephens is from London and has lived in Hong Kong for the last nine years, where he works for a leading Hong Kong gallery, specializing in contemporary ink. His articles on diverse aspects of the Hong Kong arts scene have been published in “Art Hong Kong”. A graduate in Modern Languages (European ones unfortunately!), Nicholas has authored translations of novels and plays by writers including Stefan Zweig and Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

 

 

 
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply