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Church on the Water: Tadao Ando Japanese Architecture

Self-taught architect Louis Kahn
Self-taught architect Louis Kahn

Background of the Concepts:

Wrapped in an aesthetic devoid of any ornament, many of the works of Tadao Ando base their richness in the relationship of the building with light and nature. In that sense, the Church on the Water, designed in 1985 and built in 1988, is one of its most celebrated achievements, in which nature has been involved in the design of the building. Here, Ando manages to create a microcosm that combines simply but brilliantly concepts on the profane and the sacred, the artificial and the natural, the enclosed and the exposed, the emptiness and the infinity.

Architect: Tadao Ando

Designed: 1985-1988

Constructed: 1998 (5 months)

Location: Tomamu, Hokkaidō, Japan

Style: Modern with Postmodern influence

Characteristics of style:

  • Complex spatial circulation while preserving the appearance of simplicity
  • Use of concrete with its ability to be formed into simple monotone parts with a sense of cleanliness

Roots of style:

  • Started his career as a boxer
  • Was struck by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel and decided to switch to architecture
  • Self-taught architect by studying books and architecture in person
  • Cultural background of Japan, heavily influenced by Zen
  • Religion/lifestyle throughout his life

Specific expressions of the style:

  • The entry being circuitous to give a feeling a ritual and purification
  • L-shaped wall, creating a holy place secluded from the commonplace
  • All views toward a grove of beech trees
  • Placement of the metal cross outdoors with views from inside to further express the correlation between nature and religion


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