Born in 1941 in Osaka, Japan, Tadao Ando has always been enamoured by architecture. As a child, his first glimpse into the world of design was via a second-hand book by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, one he would read over and over, not quite understanding the intricacies of modernism but captivated by its pages regardless. Years later, on a school trip to Tokyo, Ando was awestruck by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel. Still with no technical knowledge of the field, his appreciation of the building was purely aesthetic.
From that moment, Ando’s infatuation with architecture swelled. But growing up in post-war Japan, his career prospects were limited. Instead, he dabbled in professional boxing, heading overseas for matches and trying to see as many different architectural styles as he could.
After years of travelling he opened his one-man studio in 1969: Tadao Ando Architect & Associates. Initially, the self-taught architect designed residential buildings in his home country. But over time he’s been recognised for his work creating museums, convention centres, resorts, theatres and houses of worship around the world.
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His works – heavily influenced by Le Corbusier’s modernist approach to design – often feature the same thick concrete walls that characterise the style. He moulds the concrete into simple, geometric shapes that complement the building’s natural surroundings. As a result, his works have intricate interplays of light, wind and other natural forces that change over the course of the day.
The internationally renowned Ando has been awarded more than 20 design accolades, including the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize – “the Nobel Prize of architecture” – in 1995; the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2002; and the Order of Culture in 2010.
Some of his most notable projects include the Church of the Light in Osaka, whose back concrete wall is split into four quadrants to allow light to enter the building in the shape of a cross, and the Chichu Art Museum, an underground network of five art galleries built into the hillside of the island of Naoshima. The Hill of the Buddha in Sapporo was built around a 13.5-metre statue of Buddha that Ando wrapped in a subterranean rotunda covered in a hill of lavender shrubs so the sculpture’s head appears to peek out over the blooms.
Abroad, Ando has contributed to the landscapes of more than a dozen countries, with works like the Teatro Armani in Milan, La Bourse de Commerce in Paris, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in Missouri. MPavilion is his architectural debut in Australia.
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