|Burial, Lamentation, Resurrection, and Ascension of Architecture
|Written by Mika TAKIGUCHI
|Published: September 20 2009
Burial: Tadao Ando, The Ground Zero project in New York
A huge mound, 200 meters in circumference and 30 meters high, is surrounded by skyscrapers. It seems as if a small scale model of the Earth is buried under the ground, putting its head slightly above the ground. It looks like a huge grave for the earth [fig. 1 see http://architecture.blogcu.com/tadao+ando/].*1
When we walk on flat streets we are unaware that the earth is round, but the miniature globe and its swelling mound remind us of the roundness of the earth.
As the section [fig. 2] shows, the outline of the globe forms a circle. In Japanese, “wa” has two meanings: a circle as well as peace and harmony. And therefore, the circular contour of the globe may be linked with peace. We probably forget that the shape of the earth accords with peace. In Ando’s project, the earth embraces the miniature globe, and it conveys the message that peace is buried in the earth.Lamentation: Tadao Ando, a newly created part of the city --- Sengawa
The land owned by the Ito family was originally very long and narrow. It was divided into pieces when the city constructed a public road across it. The family was required to sell parts of their land to the city, and as a result, only a patchwork of irregularly shaped areas of ground was left to them.
fig. 3 Tokyo Art Museum, ”A Newly Created Part of the City --- Sengawa”, Plaza Gallery, 2005, courtesy of Tokyo Art Museum
fig. 4 Tokyo Art Museum, "A Newly Created Part of the City --- Sengawa", Plaza Gallery, 2005, photo by Akikhide Tamura, courtesy of Tokyo Art Museum
How could the family make use of such asymmetric, distorted pieces of ground? The project by Ando started from this question. His solution was to erect buildings which could remind the viewer of the original shape of the land [fig. 4]. His intention was to regenerate the lost land which the family had inherited from their ancestors. Of course it was impossible to recover the original shape since the road had been constructed, penetrating the land. However, the ground plan, the erection, and the outline of the buildings all trace the shape of the lost land [fig. 3].
What Ando did at the very beginning of this project was, I guess, to listen to the voice of the land. It speaks in whispers of its sorrow at being cut off into pieces, and describes the shape it wishes to be restored to.
Even after the land was cut into pieces on the surface and people forgot how it once looked, it retained its old memory. Once it embraced the old building in which the family lived, and people came and went from here to there. The wind blew across the land. People forget this landscape, but the land remembers. People leave, but the land always remains.
Unfortunately, the land cannot resist the movement of modernization. Everyone gives priority to convenience, and agrees to construct public roads because they contribute to efficient physical distribution, which promises to bring economic growth.
Even now, after the road has been constructed, the land remembers the past and laments that it has lost its original shape. And therefore, Ando listens to the voice of the land and he makes the buildings speak on behalf of the lost ground. The buildings speak for the memory of the land. Ando is an architect but is comparable to a composer writing a requiem, lamenting the death of someone. In fact the road is quiet behind the shopping district in Sengawa. It is probably because Ando soothed the soul of the land.
Ando does not give priority to the shape he wants to design. Instead, the shape the land wants to retrieve is more important for him. The shape of the buildings is rather irregular with a trapezium ground plan, and diagonally sloped walls and roofs. He dared to use irregular forms because they can express what the land used to be. The angular shape of the ground plan echoes with tilted walls and roofs, and these are intended to recall the shape of the lost land.
The land holds grudges against many architects because they often destroy the original shape of the terrain, but Ando will receive gratitude from the land in Sengawa because he expressed a lament for the soul of the land.Resurrection: Kenzo Tange, St Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo
fig. 5 St Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo Okatsuka, et. al., eds., Remembrance of Places Past --- Japanese Architectural Photography from the 19th to the 21st Century, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Tokyo Metropoltian Teien Art Museum, 2008
fig. 6 St Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo Okatsuka, et. al., eds., Remembrance of Places Past --- Japanese Architectural Photography from the 19th to the 21st Century, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Tokyo Metropoltian Teien Art Museum, 2008
I have been to concerts here in the cathedral several times, but it was not until I saw the miniature model that I came to understand its whole appearance and its connotations [fig. 5].
The ground plan is in the form of a cross as in traditional church architecture [fig. 6]. The roof is also in the form of a cross, repeating the plan of the ground floor. However, in contrast to the flat floor, the roof is not level. The cross-shaped roof stretches its arms, and these parts are almost flat. However, the roof of the upper half of the vertical post is not parallel with the floor. It raises its head, like a person lying on the ground raising his/her head [fig. 7].
Christ was crucified on the cross, and after his death the upright cross was thrown down to the ground. Three days after his burial, Christ was resurrected.
The cathedral reflects the cross on the ground. Furthermore, it raises its head, suggesting the very moment when Christ was brought to life again. Thus the whole appearance of the cathedral, which looks unusual at a glance, conveys the promise of the resurrection.Ascension: Dinner & Dinner, Novartis Building
Buildings are usually massive and heavily constructed to protect the people inside. However, Diener & Dinner does not convey such a conventional function. It dares to give a fragile impression to the building [fig. 8: see http://www.flickr.com/photos/riwayat/457050748/].
The facade of the building is covered with three layers of colored glass. The shape and color of each glass panel is different, and the panels are overlaid like membranes. As a result, the colors are mixed and melt into each other, and this makes the contour of the building rather obscure, just like a landscape seen by a shortsighted person without glasses. It is as if the whole building is wrapped by a mirage or covered in spilled and oozing watercolors.
The paintings of Seurat are like sand paintings in which the dots might scatter when the wind blows. They look so frail. Similarly, the huge mass of the building is decomposed into small dots. We could probably call it impressionist architecture. When it rains, the colors might melt into water, and the mass of the building might dissolve.
There are many people working inside. Those with a strong character may be comparable with deep colors, while others are light and almost transparent. Even when different thoughts collide and opposite ideas crash into each other, they may be melted and tuned, just as the overlaid colored glass panels on the façade are melted.
The colors of the facade flood together and become blurred. Then the contours of the building become vague, and the building loses its mass. Soon it loses gravity, rises slightly from the ground, and then comes to float in the air.
The architecture abandons its massive appearance, and obtains something that it usually cannot have: buoyancy. It is freed from gravity, and ascends. The architect listened to the grief of the land and gave forms to burial and lamentation through his works. Not only burial, but resurrection and ascension can also be expressed in the form of architecture.Referred Images
Figs. 1, 2: S. Nakajo, et. al., eds., Tadao Ando. Regeneration---Surroundings and Architecture, Delphi Inc., 2003.
- Tokyo Station Gallery, Tadao Ando. Regeneration---Surroundings and Architecture, 5 April to25 May, 2003
|Last Updated on July 12 2010