Tadao Ando: inside the ‘home’ of Japan’s most fabled architect

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Tadao Ando: inside the ‘home’ of Japan’s most fabled architect
Tadao Ando

The former boxer on why buildings must grow with age and how he designed his own house in Osaka

Through a slit in the façade you enter a private world, one of soft wood and cast concrete, where the confounding angles of the stairwell lead to rooms of pure symmetry, filled with natural light and the gentle swaying of a camphor tree.

Tadao Ando’s house could not be more Tadao Ando. It is quite a relief. Japan’s most fabled architect, a designer of stark and spiritual buildings, would appear to live his work, the man and his creations one and the same.

Yet a ticklish question does arise. This should be Ando’s residence. But there is no bedroom. Or food in the kitchen. And a couple of years ago he told Japanese TV that he lives in a normal apartment. This is Tadao Ando’s house, but is it his home?

When the man himself bustles in, affable, intense, sharp-boned and sunken-eyed, yet only half grey at the age of 75, he is having none of it. “This is my house,” he says with the certainty of a man about to sell his next-door neighbour’s Ferrari. A Pritzker Prize winner, yes, but Tadao Ando is a regular Osaka geezer.

Never formally trained as an architect, he learnt carpentry, fought six fights as a pro boxer (ring name “The Great Ando”), wandered the globe, and then came back to Osaka in 1969, got licensed, founded his own architectural office and started designing houses. […]