Tadao Ando does not use reeds or bamboo in his buildings. He does not construct elaborate gardens or make walls out of paper. His specialties are concrete and glass and metal- and sometimes wood.
This does not mean that Ando has rejected the architectural traditions of his Japanese ancestors- quite the opposite, in fact. Ando has managed to do what escaped so many "concrete architects" in American in the 1960ís and 1970ís America- blend spirituality and modernism to create amazing structures.
His "Church on the Water" is a prime example of this concept. The church, when seen from the outside, seems to grow naturally from the hill in which it is nestled. But it is inside the church that the true genius of Andoís work is revealed. Seated in the chapel, one can see only the lake and hills that blend almost seamlessly with the granite-tiled floor of the chapel. The unifying element in the church, and the only clue to the separation between inside and out, is a white metal cross positioned centrally just outside the church.
This harmony with nature is central to Andoís approach. Because he never received any university-level training in architecture, his designs evolve on a natural basis. His buildings maintain a remarkable consistency in their strong connection with the surrounding environment and nature.
Recalling past Japanese architecture philosophy, Ando's spaces evoke a sense of frugality and tranquility. This is almost certainly intentional, probably designed to create a Zen-like mood of introspection, much like the tea houses of old.
His buildings all share an airy open feeling, utilizing natural light rather than shutting it out. Through his use of contemporary materials and strong geometric forms Tadao Ando's interpretation of traditional styles and ideals is leading Japan, and the world, into the twenty-first century.