The new issue of TASCHEN’s monograph on Japanese architect Tadao Ando is an impressive voyage through the world of one of the most popular architects of our time. In a volume as heavy as the concrete slabs used in Ando’s buildings, the book cements the self-taught architect as one of the world’s most influential builders.
As an introduction to Tadao Ando’s massive work, the book begins with a series of chapters explaining his personal background, key projects and sources of inspiration. But for the main part, the architecture is let to speak for itself through drawings, sketches and most importantly, scenic photographs. It is a welcome surprise for the truly interested reader, however, to find so many small drawings of Ando’s buildings, allowing a deeper understanding of the architecture than pictures alone would do.
The journey starts in the sphere of the private home with a couple of early creations: The legendary Rowhouse in Sumiyoshi, Kidosaki House and Koshino House, all built in Japan. We move on to the architecture of Ando’s own studio, and here we meet the first and only real human being of the book: A nicely staged photograph of Tadao Ando himself at work, creating a complex paper model while two apprentices are eagerly taking notes in the background.
The following pages take us through Ando’s religious and cultural buildings, and the initial picture of the Artist staring into the camera sets the scene for the entire book and fits really well with Ando’s general style and interests. Generally, the buildings of the book are presented as works of art, and functionality and human relations seem to be second to this. We see no human beings inside the residential projects, and wherever we do meet people in the larger buildings, they function as a means to add a sense of scale to the buildings and rarely interact or show their faces.
The intention must be to show the architecture in its own beauty, as compositions in relation to landscapes, and this is done extremely well. Many of Ando’s undeniably beautiful projects are shown from above – detached from any human experience – in aerial photos showing how Ando’s preferred geometric elements combine in exquisite and complex compositions following the curves of a breathtaking Japanese landscape. ANDO – Complete works 1975-2014 is a great work of elegance and seriousness – much like Ando’s buildings themselves.
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