Tadao Ando exhibition in Beijing: A look back at the legendary life and work of a master architect
By Ye Qing

"Tadao Ando: Youth," a retrospective exhibition of the Japanese architect's career to date, showcases the master's skillful tricks with light.

The exhibition opened on Monday at Minsheng Museum of Modern Art in Beijing, the fifth stop of a global exhibition by the 80-year-old self-taught architect Tadao Ando, a Pritzker Architecture Prize winner.

The three-month exhibition showcases 1:1 replicas of Tadao Ando's most famous designs: Church on the Water designed in 1988, Church of the Light in 1989, and the Meditation Center of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) built during 1994-95.

Portrait of Tadao Ando. /Nobuyoshi Araki

Portrait of Tadao Ando. /Nobuyoshi Araki

The exhibition also traces the footsteps of Tadao Ando through elaborate architectural models, detailed design manuscripts, a wealth of unique films, travel sketches and photographs.

Church of the Light is the most famous work in his church trilogy. It has no traditional cross, but is decorated with a cross-shaped cut on the wall, and the light that penetrates through it presents a cross of light.

The Church of Water was designed to face the river, allowing the building to embrace nature. The design has retained the sacredness and solemnity of the church, meanwhile leading light and water into the church, which fully reflects Ando's emphasis on natural elements.

To find out more about the exhibition, Tadao Ando and his conception, CGTN spoke to Ma Weidong, the exhibition's Chinese curator and partner of Tadao Ando Architectural & Associates.

"I think Ando's architecture has a kind of spirituality to it. When you enter Ando's architectural space, it can always move you, which I think is the main characteristic of his work," said Ma.

The outside of the "Church of the Light." /CA-Group

The outside of the "Church of the Light." /CA-Group

Ando believes that architecture cannot simply be experienced via photos, videos or drawings; architecture should be perceived with human senses. Viewers should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, smell with their noses and touch with their hands. Only in this way can one understand the scale of a building and the impact its space can have on a person.

Therefore, the whole exhibition space is relatively open, and the audience can touch and even perceive the works up close.

Ma Weidong said that in making the plan for the world tour, the team initially set a very strict standard, that is, only one exhibition will be held in each country or region.

"However, after finishing the exhibition in Shanghai, we came to Beijing again. In addition to the enthusiasm of Ando's fans, Ando must think China is a very special country, and he likes it very much, so he will break the rule," he added.

"Tadao Ando: Youth" kicks off in Beijing, China, October 11, 2021. /CA-Group

"Tadao Ando: Youth" kicks off in Beijing, China, October 11, 2021. /CA-Group

However, in order to let the audience feel a difference, the exhibition in Beijing also added some points and content on the basis of the exhibition in Shanghai.

The first difference between the exhibition in Beijing and Shanghai is Beijing's exclusive 1:1 replica meditation center of UNESCO, which is a cylindrical concrete structure, and the original building was located outside the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Built during 1994-95, the building was commissioned to celebrate 50 years since the UNESCO constitution was brought into force, to offer peace and security to people from all nations.

In addition, Ma said the "Church of Light" in the Beijing exhibition is more complete in architectural scale, allowing viewers to experience Ando's classic work in a more immersive manner.

Curator Ma Weidong introduces the exhibition at the opening ceremony in Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing, China, October 11, 2021. /CA-Group

Curator Ma Weidong introduces the exhibition at the opening ceremony in Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing, China, October 11, 2021. /CA-Group

In the past years, Ando has undertaken a number of projects in China, including the He Art Museum (HEM) in Foshan, a city in the Pearl River Delta about 20 miles southwest of Guangzhou, and the Poly Grand Theatre in Shanghai. Ma said that the criteria for choosing a project are not related to the city or country. Whether the project is interesting, the client's understanding of the building and the uniqueness of the project are all considerations for Ando and his team.

"But irrespective of the kind of project, a core pursuit remains unchanged: Ando hopes to undertake projects that are challenging for him," said Ma.

When it comes to the development of contemporary architecture in China, Ma is still full of hope and expectation. The fact that Wang Shu has become the first Chinese architect to win the Pritzker Prize shows that Chinese architects are being recognized in the world, he said.

"We are making good progress," Ma added.

The exhibition runs until January 9, 2022.

Video editor: Ye Qing

Script: Ye Qing

Videographer: Li Qiushi

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