The slim volume of less than one hundred pages and small format is in a way in harmony with the minimalist aesthetics of the charismatic architect. The book is a distillate of beauty.
The exquisite colour photographs display the magic of the spare aesthetics, elegance and strength of Ando's buildings and surrounding landscape. The accompanying text is succinct and incisive and does justice to the architect and its creations through dissecting and providing a penetrating analysis of the elements that characterize Ando's architecture and individual buildings.
In all, nineteen projects are presented covering a broad spectrum of Ando's work comprising houses, apartment buildings, churches, temples, museums, art foundations, the Japan pavilion expo '92 and the Meditation Space, Unesco.
Three are the primary characteristics in Ando's architecture: the geometry of walls, the geometry of sky and elements derived from the Japanese minimalist aesthetics.
Ando's architecture is an architecture of walls e.g. a freestanding wall, an angled wall piercing a concrete cube or a wall, bisected horizontally, encircling an inner courtyard like a medieval rampart.
Ando employs a limited range of materials and expresses their naked textures. His choice of materials gives his work its characteristic ascetism and tension. His buildings convey a feeling of purity, beauty and strength.
Ando though a master of poured concrete, still relies on natural materials for points that a human being may touch. He invariably uses natural wood for floors, doors, and furniture. As natural materials decay, they become repositories for memory.
Nature, especially the sky, plays a crucial role in Ando's architecture. He abstracts it to his purposes. In order to elude architecture's fundamental nature as a closed-off box, he relies on the sky as the natural element which most affects architectural interiors. In Ando's architecture, the sky is a crucial spatial-structural element. The interplay of light and shadow created by a sharply delineated sky and the three-dimensional forms expressed in concrete walls generate a special fascination in Ando's architecture.
The interlocking relationship between site, structure and empty space provides a formula for bringing a confined area to life.
Ando's architecture is simple, strong and gentle. It joins simplicity of form to complexity of space. It uses naked materials delicate to the touch. Ando's architecture is considered the culmination of Japanese aesthetics. Because the place of nothing is the essence of Japanese culture. A container of aesthetic emotions.
What Ando's buildings always communicate to us is the conviction that architecture is able to give order to the world only when it is based on strong emotions, and the faith that strong emotions are born only by taking up challenges and prevailing. Beauty is not the goal of architecture, only the result.
I was aware this wasn't an in-depth book, but it set me racing for information/research after reading this. It's especially inspiring for those first-year/second-year students out there who are keen to explore, or just those who want to know what it takes to become king of the concrete hill. I went in to a coffee shop to read it from front to back. Of course I left having finished it, but more importantly I felt nourished. It has a healthy amount of text, with some stunning architectural photography throughout. The breadth of typology/topography will send you racing for more of his work outside of this little gem. Tadao Ando is a master of simplicity. This 'Taschen Basic Architecture Series' follows suit.