space’. Ando has invested his concrete with a shininess
that implies lightness. In contrast to Brutalism and
béton brut designs, where concrete surfaces are bushhammered – the Everson Museum in Syracuse by
IM Pei, for example – or feature stippled effects of
shotcrete surfaces – as in the Chapel of Notre Dame du
Haut in Ronchamp by Le Corbusier – Ando’s smooth
surfaces offer a distinctive sheen that encompasses
subtle reflections of light. These concrete walls give the
impression of gently shimmering as if they were wet.
In this way the concrete does not solely determine the
atmosphere of the space alone, but refers to another
element: light. Large windows or slits are quietly
reflected through straight or curved walls.
Ando’s elegant slits between wall and ceiling generate
a poetic rhythm of light during the course of the day.
Mainly restrained as a channel for diffuse daylight,
they break the concrete surfaces and separate vertical
from horizontal, intensifying the spatial depth. The
moment of crescendo is short but intense. It emerges
when the rays of sunlight run very close along the
wall and produce a layer of striking shadows. The
Koshino House in Ashiya (1984) features this effect
in two variations, first along straight walls and later
for the extension with a curved wall. Diagonal bands
of shadow cut the fields of light grazing the walls and
heighten the dramatic daylight gesture.
Ando applied a comparable concept for the Chapel
on Mount Rokko in Kobe (1986) where light gently
delineates and reveals the cross in the early afternoon.
While the simplicity in Ando’s design is legible in
the atmosphere of the space alone, but
refers to another element: light’
Opposite: concrete detail at the Hill of the Buddha
Below: a skilful composition of various brightness levels,
space and vistas form the vistor’s journey to the Buddha