The Osaka atelier of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando is a masterclass in concrete, with a five-storey atrium at its core. Port Magazine visited this extraordinary space for its fifth anniversary issue, an excerpt of which is published here…
Tadao Ando originally designed the building that houses his studio in Osaka in 1973 as a home for a young family. As it neared completion, the clients discovered they were expecting twins and the architect realised it would be too small for their needs, so kept it for his own use. ‘I learnt from this experience that life does not always go according to plan,’ says Ando, who has described the remarkable evolution of his own career as a process of ‘trial and error’.
The studio, which was extended three times and finally rebuilt in 1991 to accommodate Ando’s expanding team, serves as a case study for several key principles that typify the 74-year-old’s work. Its smooth concrete walls have a tactility that is enhanced by natural light flooding in through carefully positioned windows and skylights, while the arrangement of interconnected geometric volumes produces constantly shifting perspectives. This mastery of space, light and materiality is evident in every one of Ando’s exquisitely detailed projects.
Since setting up his own practice in 1969, the famously self-taught architect has completed over 200 buildings, with notable examples including the Rokko housing developments in Kobe (1983-99), the Church of the Light in Osaka (1989), the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis (2001) and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2002). In recognition of his consistent ability to create functional yet exquisitely crafted and emotionally engaging buildings, Ando was presented with architecture’s most prestigious award, the Pritzker Prize, in 1995. He donated the winner’s $100,000 grant to victims of the Kobe earthquake.
Despite his success, Ando is extremely humble and quick to point out that none of his projects could be accomplished without the talent and dedication of many other people. As his team continues to work on ventures of increasing diversity and scale around the world, Ando highlights that his approach has not changed drastically over the past 50 years and his focus remains on creating architecture as ‘a home for people’s hearts’.