The Heart of “Youth” in an 80-year-old Architect: The World Tour Exhibition of Tadao Ando Landing in Beijing

TEXT:CAFA ART INFO    DATE: 2021.10.28

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Being one of the most active and influential architectural masters in the world today, Tadao Ando, who is now 80 years old and has had 5 internal organs removed, has insisted on responding to world issues with his architecture and has challenged people's preconceived views on architects and the architectural industry since the founding of his office. What can architecture do? What can architects do? "Tadao Ando World Tour Exhibition in Beijing: Youth", the most comprehensive retrospective exhibition of Tadao Ando's architectural design career so far, just kicked off at Beijing Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum on October 12, 2021. This phenomenal large-scale architectural exhibition, which has never been seen in China before, is divided into four parts: "Primitive Shapes of Space", "An Urban Challenge", "Landscape Genesis" and "Dialogue with History", aiming to explore Tadao Ando's position as a "fighter", who continues to challenge the architectural plan over most of his life, and the retrospective interpretation of the "Youth" of life in his 80s. The exhibition presents the extraordinary achievements of the great master Tadao Ando and his thinking about the future.

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Tadao Ando © Kazumi Kurigami

Transformed from truck driver and professional boxer to an architect, Tadao Ando has constantly broken with convention, challenged the brand new architectural "geometric" aesthetics, and achieved the acme of fair-faced concrete. After half a century of architectural practice, he is still active in the forefront of global architecture as a great master in the architectural industry. Through exquisite architectural models, detailed design manuscripts, large numbers of unique films, travel sketches and photos, this exhibition traces the footprints of the master Tadao Ando, allows people to think together about architecture, the environment, city and our unique earth with the pandemic along with Tadao Ando, and re-realizes the richness of architectural culture and the infinite beauty of architectural art. The exhibition space is designed by Tadao Ando Architect & Associates. The unique layout, structure and exhibition route reflects the philosophy of Tadao Ando's architectural practice over half a century—to create a space that "can only be presented in this place" and bring the moving feelings created by the light and shadow to the audience.


Rokko Housing © Ohashi Tomio 07.jpgThe Model for Row House in Sumiyoshi – Azuma House © Tadao Ando Architect & Associates

Row House in Sumiyoshi – Azuma House © Shinkenchiku

"Row House in Sumiyoshi – Azuma House” is one of his masterpieces from his early years and it is directly derived from Ando's childhood life experience in Shitamachi, Osaka. In the 1970s, there were still a large number of wooden row houses that Ando had experienced in his childhood. For the people of Osaka living here, how to ensure enough living space in a narrow land that has lasted for a century. Ando’s "Row House in Sumiyoshi – Azuma House” is located in the center of a traditional row of houses. Within this area of less than 50 square meters, a reinforced concrete residence was constructed. Except for the entrance, all the four sides are completely surrounded by walls, and the "light garden" with no ceiling in the middle introduces light and fresh air, which implements the traditional Japanese aesthetics that attaches great importance to the changes of the four seasons. In the overall abstract geometric composition, the historical memory of the concrete place is incorporated. "Row House in Sumiyoshi – Azuma House” won the award from the Architectural Institute of Japan in 1979 and it helped Ando establish a reputation all over the world.



Church of the Light © Matsuoka Mitsuo

The utilization of concrete and natural light are also reflected in Ando’s later iconic work, "Church of the Light." On the condition that the amount of budget from donations was uncertain, Ando constructed a concrete block space with extreme simplicity, eliminating all decorative elements. Only a cross-shaped opening is left on the front wall of the church. “Church of the Light” jumps out by projecting the "cross" that symbolizes the church into this dark space. Thus, it has become the most sacred "pilgrimage site" for countless people to come and immerse themselves in.


Church on the Water © Shiratori Yoshio 


Church on the Water © Shinkenchiku 

"Church on the Water" is a work designed by Tadao Ando in Hokkaido, Japan in 1985. It is also the only church with the theme of "water" in the world and it is surrounded by rich vegetation. As one of Tadao Ando's classic works, "Church on the Water" is designed to face the river, enabling the building to embrace nature. The design not only retains the sanctity and solemnity of the church, but also cleverly introduces light and water into the church, which fully reflects Tadao Ando's design concept of refining and separating natural elements and integrating them with architecture.




Meditation Space UNESCO ©Tadao Ando Architect & Associates

With the principle of creating spaces and buildings that can "only be in this place," this exhibition replicated Tadao Ando's "Church of the Light" and " Church on the Water" in Beijing Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum. In addition, this exhibition replicates another classic work by Tadao Ando— "Meditation Space UNESCO " for the first time. It is built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of UNESCO in 1995. It is a "Meditation Space" that transcends all religions and factions and embodies world peace. While respecting the original environment, Tadao Ando focused the design theme on "how to make the space express a firm and independent will." The 1:1 replication provides an opportunity for the audience to touch and understand the design of the architectural master at a close distance.


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He Art Museum © He Art Museum

As an architect, Tadao Ando pursues the integration of architecture and nature, an integration with the environment, and constantly explores, striving to create a "unique" architecture that can reflect specific regional culture and scenery. Just as the distinct growth environment that has cultivated Ando's tenacious and independent attitude towards life, the various experiences of his youth and the various ideological trends he encountered when traveling around the world have affected Tadao Ando's creative spirit. The 80-year-old Tadao Ando never stops designing. With "architecture" as the medium, the story of Tadao Ando and China has lasted for 20 years. In 2002, he officially entered China by responding to an invitation to a lecture on "the possibility of architecture". Following the establishment of a solid international cooperation team in Europe and America, thanks to the profound teacher-student relationship with Ma Weidong, founder of CA-GROUP, Tadao Ando Architect & Associates established a solid cooperative relationship with CA-GROUP in 2005. "Looking for partners to fight side by side" has become Ando's unique concept of transnational cooperation. With his sincerity and dreams of architecture, with the full cooperation of the CA-GROUP, Tadao Ando has left many thoughts and wishes on Chinese architecture, culture and art in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Sanya, Chengdu, Suzhou and other cities, some of which have already become classic buildings integrated into our daily life, such as Aurora Museum, Liangzhu Center of Arts, Shanghai Poly Grand Theater, Xinhua Redstar Landmark, Ganso Dream World, He Art Museum, as well as more than ten ongoing projects such as the latest works: URS· Shang Highland Tadao Ando Gallery, Chapel of Song, Gem Museum, etc. This exhibition interprets Tadao Ando's architectural creation in China.


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Chichu Art Museum © Matsuoka Mitsuo

The exhibition space itself is an art scene of light and shadow cut by the most powerful "wall" and "column" in Ando’s geometric style. The exhibition collects manuscripts drawn on napkins, project drafts on hotel stationery, 10-meter long sketches, complex and exquisite models, the paradigm of the world model of topographic phenomenology —video , picture , model, large-scale presentation of the art Island—Naoshima... they jointly show Tadao Ando’s design process and architectural miracle created jointly with many artists. The exhibition provides a panoramic review of the legendary life of this self-taught architect, who became an architectural master through widely reading and inspiration from traveling around the world.


Eternal Youth – Green Apple © Ogawa Shigeo6377016437675097666991751.jpgTadao Ando talked online at the opening ceremony ©️ CA-GROUP Photo by Studio FF

“Eternal Youth – Green Apple” located at the entrance of Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, represents Tadao Ando’s wish as he quoted Samuel Ullman’s poem and said that, “Everyone has his or her ideal and dream that ‘I want to do this, or I want to live like this’ when he or she was a student. This green apple symbolizes the youthful heart of you and me in the teens and twenties. I want to share it with all of you that never lose the heart of green apple, keep running, even if you are 100 years old, you can embrace with a 100-year-old youth.”

The exhibition will remain on view till January 9th, 2022. 

Text edited by Luo Yifei and Sue/CAFA ART INFO

Courtesy Beijing Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum

About Architect Tadao Ando

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Being one of the most influential architecture masters in the world today, he is known as "the poet of fair-faced concrete" and the initiator of a number of public welfare fund-raising funds. Born in Osaka, Japan in 1941, he is a self-taught architect, and founded Tadao Ando Architect & Associates in 1969.

Representative works: "Church of the Light" (1989), "Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts" (2001), "Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth" (2002), "Chichu Art Museum" (2004), "21_21 DESIGN SIGHT" (2007), etc.

Awards: He was awarded the Architectural Institute of Japan’s Annual Prize for "Row House in Sumiyoshi"(1976) in 1979, the Japan Art Academy Prize in 1993, the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1995, the Japanese Cultural Merit Award in 2003, the Union Internationale des Architectes (UIA) Gold Medal in 2005, John F. Kennedy Center Gold Medal in the Arts and Shimpei Goto Award in 2010. He received the Japanese Order of Culture in 2010, the Commandeur de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2013, the Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia in 2015, the Isamu Noguchi Award in 2016 and so on. He held solo exhibitions in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1991 and 1993. He was a visiting professor at Yale University, Columbia University and Harvard University. He has been a professor at the University of Tokyo since 1997 and is now an honorary professor.

In China: He officially entered China by taking the opportunity of the "the possibility of architecture" lecture held in 2002. In 2005, he established a comprehensive cooperative relationship with the CA-GROUP, and thus started a series of academic exchanges and architectural practice activities in China. With the full cooperation of CA-GROUP, Tadao Ando has held 5 architecture exhibitions and 8 lectures in China so far. Among them, the lecture on "the era of Asia" held in Shanghai in 2012 makes Tadao Ando the first and only architect in the world who has held a lecture with more than 10,000 people attending. Several world-class architectural works such as "Liangzhu Village Cultural Art Centre" (2013), "Shanghai Poly Grand Theatre" (2014), "He Art Museum" (2020) have been realized in China, and more than a dozen projects are currently in progress. 

About the exhibition

Tadao Ando World Tour Exhibition in Beijing: Youth

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Exhibition Time: 2021.10.12-2022.01.09

Opening: 2021.10.12

Venue: Beijing Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum