Heir to the tradition of the Japanese Corbuserian, Tadao Ando decided to return to the origin and abstraction of concrete, which he executes systematically. The extreme obsession of the architect with a space that can be at once rational for its geometry and poetic for its emptiness feels comfortably embodied in the projects for churches; in them, the space of worship equals that of meditation, a void modulated by light and textures but devoid of symbols or objects of cult, present in the tradition of the Zend and of the Christian crypts. In his churches, this deliberately schematic architecture of harsh plans and poetic voids adjusts to the liturgy leading to an extreme ascesis, and stripping the construction from any accident or symbol, with the exception of the cross, which adopts an impressive presence, although it is limited to its abstract shape in order to escape any allusion to the passion and the crucifixion.
This reduction of space to its minimum expression to obtain a greater intensity is associated among us to the Japanese quality of the haiku, and allows to admire these empty boxes with an interconfessional emotion where God is above all a positive absence. In the Church on the Water and the Church of the Light – which were completed one right after the other and also seem to explain one another –, the architect perfected his project for the Christian place of worship. In the Church on the Water, Ando does not appear comfortable with the meticulous volumes of his referent Le Corbusier, and prefers to recall the chapel by the Siren’s at the University of Otaniemi, one of the most significant works of his time, and perhaps the only one which manages to give a reply to Ronchamp from the same level; it is an affirmation of the Miesian aphorism ‘less is more’ expressed with an even greater accuracy than his author was able to accomplish in his IIT Chapel at the campus of Chicago. Ando reconsidered the space proposed by the Siren’s with an impressive interpretation, where the untamed and pantheistic empathy of Otaniemi – with its delicate materials – was replaced by gray abstraction, as happens with the interpretation of the rich landscape of Japan in Zen paintings on white paper and black wash drawing. In this way the architect updated an architecture of an earlier moment and used its formula to explore new possibilities he was interested in. And immediately, in the Church of the Light, confined to an urban plot, Ando steps forward toward abstraction. The cross shines, and can only be seen against a dark backdrop; it is an experience on negative of the landscape with the cross...[+]