2020 — now

with Tadao Ando


Driven by the wind of an invincible tension to surpass himself and everything in life, with a courageous self-taught flight, Tadao Ando has challenged the laws of architecture and beyond, and continues to do so.

A young man who was a boxer by profession, in love with forms, at a certain point decided to change his life. And to give a very concrete form to his way of seeing the world.

A world that has been playing the role of starchitect for years, shoring up the planet with the unmistakable imprint of its concrete buildings, which it transformed into an architectural mystique.

For years, his challenge has been won with a more mystical aesthetic than that of others, with curves and straight lines.

We meet him in Venice in June 2020, when his next appointment will be in Paris and shortly, inside the former Stock Exchange. On this occasion, Tadao Ando will open the circular structure 60 meters in diameter, the third contemporary art museum for Francois Pinault, the first opportunity for the Japanese self-architect to create something: "To go beyond the Pantheon".

Let's keep in mind the word beyond. It's a lot of him.

Look over. From now on and forever, touching the unthinkable if necessary.

The character is there, as powerful as the impact of his work. If you find yourself in front of him not an estrogen or a doubt flies. He decides, as he always has. Starting from scratch, studying architecture on your own, to never stop again: “You have to study until the last day”.

Studying is great, but it doesn't necessarily lead to designing dream churches and stunning museums. So let's go back to the start, to that tension to overtake and to that unbridled will, which combined with the freedom of courage, not only makes you become an architect, but you become Tadao Ando and they give you an honorary degree.

There is a method, which he simplified as follows: “In each of us there is a specific universe. From a young age you need to want to create your own world, in any field." In that of architecture? “Circle and square are the two basic shapes, we must make an effort to re-imagine them. Thinking of them, continue to try to achieve something different, like no one else in the world."

This is his life advice, valid for everyone. Not so obvious to put into practice, so we ask how he proceeds: "Visions emerge naturally, but are only carried forward by reflection." He loves to take them beyond the gaze: “An architecture must strike the mind, beyond its strength or lightness. When you close your eyes, that structure must re-emerge." Does it help that it is in tune with the space? Much more: “It must connect to the globe”.

The secrets of the imagination are unfathomable, but none of his are digital: "I am against the computer." Tadao needed the eyes of his travels, a pencil for his sketches, the many books to compare. All the volumes that today line the walls of the Osaka studio, a single 4-storey vertigo, which strikes those who observe it as an abyss or as an asceticism: "Architects of enormous fame come to visit me, who are unable to face the too many stairs."

We start again with the eyes that sift through the shapes of the world, and then stop in circles and squares, but only after a long tour around the world, when the young Ando decides to explore it. First all of Japan, then Europe and then Africa: “There is a journey that is done physically and then there is the mental one”. Both are looking for stimuli, questions to nourish the universe he talks about: "You don't always find an answer, you have to investigate on the spot." His research selected some precise images of our peninsula: "Italy is the starting point for any architect". He cites the elegance of Carlo Scarpa, the circularity of the Pantheon: “I could spend a day looking up”, the magic of the entrance to the Laurentian Library in Florence: “With a single staircase a universe was created”. His inspirations, together with Le Corbusier: “The architect of light” and the columns of the Parthenon: “At first I didn't understand the importance of columns and architraves, but ignorance helps a lot to have to think”. He travels and draws many sketches: "By tracing them, then you study and review things." He began to see them in his own way in 1968, when he opened his studio in Osaka: "I had no job, I started with a friend's house." And with this first apartment he directly revisits the laws of classic comfort: from the bedroom, the bathroom can be reached by crossing the internal garden. With an umbrella, if it rains: “The client has been doing it for about 40 years. Everyone chases comfort, there are more important things. It was that person's home, his universe." Thus begins a story of concrete that will reach churches and museums and important clients, so today we move from one continent to another, without ever neglecting time for ourselves: "Even just an hour or half a day, you have to find it". To do what? “I'm not going to play golf.” What do you think of emptiness? “It can make you feel the joy of being alive.” He has gone further in this too, if at 77 years old it is difficult to keep up with him, even physically, yet he has 5 vital organs less, removed out of necessity: "In China they offer me a lot of work, they think it brings good luck". He seems lucky, an architect of the world who speaks only Japanese: “In Paris they are against the underground space at the Stock Exchange. Not knowing languages helps. They have given up on opposing."