The Centre Pompidou Paris is holding a major retrospective of the work of the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, a key figure in contemporary architecture and a previous winner of the prestigious Pritzker prize for architecture.
Few architects have succeeded in creating concrete structures that are as peaceful and awe-inspiring as a church.
Stepping into a Tadao Ando building – whether it is a Christian church, a private residence or a university campus – imbues one with that kind of religious sensation: of quiet, of respect, of oneness with a larger whole.
The Japanese architect – surprisingly, a former boxer – is self-taught, and founded his own architecture firm in in Osaka 1969, after an extensive trip during which he visited buildings by renowned architects such as Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn.
What gives Ando’s buildings that sense of stillness is the influence of his Japanese upbringing and lifestyle. His structures emphasize empty space to reinforce the beauty of simplicity.
His firm belief is that architecture can change society, that our dwellings have an impact on our cities and therefore our identity.
The Japanese terms of the ‘haiku’ and ‘Zen’ are obvious in his work, the concentration on the interior life. Seemingly contradictory, Ando uses concrete in most of his work, a very heavy material, which somehow translates to a feeling of weightlessness.
The Centre Pompidou in Paris celebrates Tadao’s pure architecture with an exhibition that shines a light on his prolific oeuvre: approximately 300 projects worldwide – an excellent reason to stay at one of White Line Hotels’ two La Réserve Paris locations.
But if you’re willing to go a bit further, visit the Vitra Campus near Basel, where the celebrated architect was the author of the Conference Pavilion. This low-slung, concrete building was conceived so as not to disturb the meadow’s natural flora of cherry trees. Completed in 1993, it’s Ando’s first building outside of Japan, and it’s accessible via a meditative walkway reminiscent of Japanese cloister gardens. Then return to the historic Widder Hotel in nearby Zürich, for some five-star modernist luxury in this prestigious quarter of the Swiss city.