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Tadao Ando

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Tadao Ando is a self-taught Japanese architect and founder of the renowned Tadao Ando Architects & Associates design studio. His works have an unmistakable air of Japanese influence, often integrating natural elements and surroundings into its style.

Ando was born in 1941 in Osaka along with his twin brother, Takao Kitayama. When they were two years old, Ando’s parents intentionally separated the two brothers and Ando went to live with his great grandmother while his brother stayed with their parents.

During high school, Ando started working as a boxer, under the ring name "Great Ando." Soon realizing that boxing was not his calling, Ando returned to his interest in architecture, something that had first developed in middle school thanks to both his math teacher and conversations he had with the carpenter who renovated his childhood home. His interest strengthened even further when he visited Tokyo on a school trip and saw the Imperial Hotel, which was designed by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

For financial reasons, Ando could not attend university and thus did not receive any official education in architecture. Instead, Ando began attending night classes on drawing and design and studied the works of Le Corbusier, Louis Khan, and other notable architects. (He even later named his pet dog Le Corbusier.) In 1968, he returned to Osaka and founded his own design firm, Tadao Ando Architects & Associates.

Ando’s style is the product of his environment, especially Japanese culture and religion. Amongst Ando's many influences, Zen Buddhism had a particularly noticeable effect on his work. The interior design of Ando’s buildings reflects the Zen emphasis on inner sensations instead of outward perception. Ando’s works have an unmistakable air of elegant simplicity despite their complex spatial circulation. Some say that his style represents a haiku in that it emphasizes the beauty of emptiness and nothingness, something that is derived from Japanese cultural tenets.

Some of Ando’s most well-known works include the Church of the Light (1999) in Ibaraki, Osaka, Pulitzer Arts Foundation museum (2001) in St. Louis, Missouri, Chichu Art Museum (2004) in Naoshima, Kagawa, The Oval at Benesse Art Museum (1995), also in Naoshima, Kagawa, and the Honpuku-ji or Water Temple (1991) on Awaji Island in Hyogo. See pictures of The Oval and Honpuku-ji below.

JSB staff members personally highly recommend visiting Naoshima island and viewing some of Ando's works in person if possible!


Works Cited

Dayman, Lucy. “10 Iconic Tadao Ando Buildings You Should Visit.” Japan Objects, Japan Objects, 23 June 2021,

Goldberger, Paul. “'Laureate' in a Land of Zen and Microchips.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Apr. 1995,

Krss. “Tadao Ando.” Flickr, 3 Jan. 2006, Accessed 14 Oct. 2022.

“Tadao Ando Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography,

“Water Temple (Honpuku-Ji).” Japan Architecture,

“12 Fun Facts about Tadao Ando.” Arch2O.Com, 21 Oct. 2020,

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