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  • Farah Hamdy

Exploring the work of Tadao Ando and The Theory of Pure Geometry

For today’s article, I’d like to introduce you to one of my newest discoveries in the world of architecture - Tadao Ando. A leading contemporary Japanese architect, Ando is best known for his serenely minimalistic aesthetic.

Prior to his career switch to architecture, Ando was a competitive boxer. To teach himself the ins and outs of his craft, he consumed a sizable sum of books. Ando began to travel across continents on various educational trips, exploring different forms of architecture across the globe. Following this, 1969 he felt confident in his capabilities and he opened his own one-man studio, Tadao Ando Architectural & Associates. Despite having virtually zero formal education in the field of architecture, Ando has taught at the University of Tokyo, Yale and Harvard and Columbia.

Some of his most celebrated works range from places of worship such as the Church of Light in Osaka, Japan to conference centers - the Vitra Seminar House in Weil Am Rhein, Germany and commercial estates. In fact, Ando is still a practicing architect, with his latest project being the restoration of the 18th century Parisian stock exchange - Bourse De Commerce – with plans to turn it into a contemporary art gallery.

Ando’s work is often characterized by the use of raw concrete, natural light sources, and an intricate interplay between the interior of the building and the surrounding natural exterior.

One pivotal aspect of his work is his great attention to the location of the structure and its surroundings. He allows the pre-existing natural elements surrounding the building to play a role in commanding its shape. In his own words, Ando states “Architecture is something to be experienced with all five sense – not just the eyes.” In his work, Ando habitually employs his own design theory – the theory of Pure Geometry. This theory lays out a sort of mechanism by which Ando devises a building’s design to its ultimate perfection, with the ambition of crafting it as beautifully as possible, while allowing its visitors to experience an array of natural earthly elements that surround the structure, be it light, wind or water.

His usage of the theory of pure geometry can be distinctly portrayed in his infamous architectural work – The Church of Light – where he designs a cross shaped aperture through which light pours into the building. His use of simple materials is a testament to his minimalistic approach, in addition to his lack of usage of any traditional Christian themes or art.

A common theme seen in Ando’s work is his dedication to leaving the construction site of his projects as unaltered as possible. To do so, the architect allows the nature that engulfs his structures to dictate their arrangement. This was the case with the Vitra Seminar House, located in Weil Am Rhein, Germany. The land upon which the project was to be built contained a number of trees that Ando did not want to destroy. To resolve this, the building was built around the trees, allowing them to determine the final shape of the structure. The building itself follows a similar theme to the rest of the renowned architect’s work. With his usage of structure and geometry, Ando creates delicate hollow areas in the structure, allowing a continuous flow of light between spaces. His simplistic style is clearly visible through his depiction of large expanses of bare concrete, with a rather unique emphasis on natural elements that engulf the structure.

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