With over 300 architectural designs to his name, Tadao Ando is treated as a national treasure in his native Japan. Renowned for his work with concrete and light, his architecture has been said to create a haiku effect, emphasizing nothingness and empty space to represent the beauty of simplicity.
Tadao Ando architecture is iconic and recognizable, based on a strong foundational ideology, which he calls pure geometry. Each of his structures, characterized by stripped-back, concrete simplicity and the use of light as an important controlling factor, follow natural forms of the particular landscape and try to use its forces. Masterfully interweaving natural and man-made elements, Ando seeks to allow viewers to experience every element of a structure's surroundings.
Featured image: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, via Creative Commons.
Constructed in 2004 by Tadao Ando as a site rethinking the relationship between nature and people, Chichu Art Museum was built mostly underground to avoid affecting the beautiful natural scenery of the Seto Inland sea in Japan. Despite its position being primarily subterranean, the museum facilitates the exclusive use of natural light to illuminate the artworks, changing the atmosphere and appearance of the interior throughout the day and all along the seasons.
Harmoniously blending art and architecture, it& is a masterful exercise in the juxtaposition of shapes, generating a series of voids that are the only elements visible from the outside. This masterful example of Japanese brutalism is wholly site-specific, created in dialogue with the artworks inside.
Featured image: Chichu Art Museum. Image via benesse-artsite.jp.
Completed in 2020 in the Shunde business district of Foshan, Guangdong Province, China, He Art Museum integrates Cantonese culture by extracting the unique meaning of its geometric form in the regional context. As Ando explained, he wanted to "synthesize southern China’s rich diverse cultures that stretches many millennia and the influences that birthed Lingnan architecture," hoping it will become the heart of Lingnan culture.
Imagined as a place of harmony, the museum's design was based on ancient Chinese cosmology, philosophy, western style’s use of light and Lingnan’s terrain. A modern interpretation that can reinvigorate architectural heritage from both the east and west, the design is characterized by a double-helix pair of staircases, which climb to the fourth floor and circular exhibition spaces bathed in natural light.
Featured image: He Art Museum, via Creative Commons.
Built in Fort Worth, Texas in 2002, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is characterized by simple geometry, incorporation of the natural environment, and very minimal material selections. Completed after a five-year long design process, the building embodies the pure, unadorned elements of a modern work of art, is comprised of five long, flat-roofed pavilions situated on a 1.5 acre pond.
The concrete envelope is surrounded by a forty-foot-high transparent walls of glass framed in metal, providing magnificent public circulation areas. The structure is perfectly reflected in the surrounding pond and the light that comes off the water can make its presence felt on the wall. As with other Tadao Ando designs, light is one of the key elements, with an emphasis on both diffused and reflected natural light.
Featured image: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, via Creative Commons.
A result from the collaboration between Lee Ufan and Tadao Ando, Lee Ufan Museum is a semi-underground structure located in a gentle valley surrounded by hills and the ocean. It is in near proximity of Benesse House and Chichu Art Museum, also designed by Ando.
A space where nature, architecture and art resonate with each other, it combines geometrically shaped reinforced concrete with nature and open spaces that accentuate the artwork displayed within. With the majority of the museum buried underground, only the esplanade and its sculptures, which mingle verticality and horizontality, and shadow and light, emerge from the ground. The building itself is composed from three rectangular rooms, attributed with different qualities of materiality, light, and scale, a closed triangular forecourt, and an approach path lined with parallel walls.
Featured image: Lee Ufan Museum, via Creative Commons.
Completed in 2001 after four years of construction and nearly ten of planning, Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis was the first public building in United States to be designed by Ando. Faithful to the style of Tadao Ando architecture, the building is suffused with natural light through carefully composed windows and a central water court, creating a dialogue between art and architecture.
The design is characterized by the precise lines and contemplative spaces, allowing versatility through its simplicity to compliment the many different types and styles of art. In 2015, the Pulitzer commissioned Ando again to create new below-grade galleries that expand its space, fitting seamlessly with those in the existing building and honoring its aesthetic and spatial sensibility.
Featured image: Pulitzer Arts Foundation, via Creative Commons.
Located in the archaeological park Fusoki-no-Oka, the Chikatsu Asuka region in the southern part of Osaka, Chikatsu Museum has been conceived as a hill from which one can see the entire excavated area. The region contains over 200 burial mounds, or kofun, from that era with a number of archaeological sites in the building's immediate neighborhood, and the museum is designed to preserve the park's topography.
The building's roof doubles as sets of stairs leading up to an observation tower and plaza, making the building an integral part of the landscape that it also serves to exhibit.The exhibition galleries are spacious and essential, with the light coming from above and atmosphere intentionally kept in darkness.
Featured image: Chikatsu Museum, via Creative Commons.
Opened in 2011 after years of construction, Asia Museum of Modern Art is a three-story building designed in the triangular shape. A marvelous, rigid, well-detailed building designed around the small art collection, it is closely affiliated with the Asia University and conceived as a catalyst that is intended to transform the school’s growing campus.
A typically controlled and elegant response that brings together art, nature, and people, it is comprised of the triangular stacking forms that create overlapping spaces between exhibition spaces. The triangular geometry of the building is repeated with V-columns supporting the structural steel frame, and is again emphasized through the project’s landscaping.
Featured image: Asia Museum of Modern Art, via Creative Commons.
Created to house the works of Tsuguharu Foujita from the collection of the Masakichi Hirano Art Foundation, Akita Museum of Art was designed to have a unique appeal characterized by his works. Located right in front of Senshu Park in the center of Akita City, it takes on a triangular shape that echoes the triangular roof that defines the current prefectural museum of art.
The museum strives to unite the Akita people with the cultural creation in the downtown area.
Featured image: ;Akita Museum of Art, via Creative Commons.