The Chichu Art Museum by Tadao Ando – Architecture and Design
Chichu Art Museum Site Planning
Japanese architects tend not to tamper with the land. However, Ando is not loathed to shape the land. He placed importance on site planning even as a young architect but has gradually grown bolder in manipulating topography since the Koshino House. In Rokko Housing, he took up the challenge of a steep hillside; in Suntory Museum, he used a seaside site to create a new relationship between the sea and architecture. Twenty years later, in the Chichu Art Museum, he created a dramatic museum of art by burying geometrical forms beneath a mountainside.
Naoshima is a small island in the Inland Sea. Ando has been involved with this island for well over ten years. Although the Chichu Art Museum is located on a hill on the island, the building is buried completely in the ground out of consideration for the natural scenery of the Inland Sea. Chichu art museum floor plan is composed of galleries organised around two courtyards, one an equilateral triangle and the other a square in plan, and the open-air passageways linking those galleries. Underground, axes and directions do not exist. That is precisely why strong forms, unique materials, and artists of a passionate nature are demanded in spaces below ground.
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Museum’s Structure and Interior
Chichu Art Museum is dedicated to the permanent exhibition of works by three men, the Impressionist Claude Monet and the contemporary artists Walter de Maria and James Turrell. To put it another way, this is a house where artworks are to reside permanently; the architecture and the artworks cannot be considered separately. In the Turrell space, we are in close contact with the sky. We also experience the creation of a cube in mid-air of white light. In the Walter de Maria room, a work placed on the wall of an enormous staircase radiates a golden colour and creates a space with a religious atmosphere. In the Monet room, plastered walls with rounded corners and a floor paved with marble create the impression that we are encountering the water lilies of Monet somewhere in outer space.
In other art museums, artworks are things to be looked at; in this museum, however, artworks are things to be experienced with our entire bodies. Naturally, it would not be possible to experience the works in this way without the help of the architectural space. Looked at another way, the Chichu Art Museum is an underground laboratory. This is an ambitious attempt to create spaces where visitors can experience the works in a pure way, using the underground environment. We are cut off from the outside world; our perceptions are made sensitive; we are able to concentrate solely on looking at the artworks. This is a bold concept.
The client, Soichiro Fukutake, is one of the leading collectors of contemporary art in Japan. He commissions works, mainly to be prepared on Naoshima, by artists invited from around the world. In 1998 the Art House Project was initiated in the village of Motomura, on the east side of the island. This is a project to restore and preserve traditional folk houses remaining in the village and use them as galleries for permanent exhibitions of contemporary art. The idea of rebuilding unoccupied houses in an old community on Naoshima and creating small art museums throughout the town is an interesting one.
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One such museum is Minami-Dera, designed by Ando for James Turrell. it is a windowless building, with a dark space which no light from outside penetrates. Turrell’s work “Backside of the Moon” emerges out of the darkness. There is in that darkness a minuscule amount of white light. Ando created a space of darkness that rejects light, and Turrell introduced an extremely small amount of light into that darkness to demonstrate how, in darkness, even a spoonful of light can serve as an eloquent critique and change the meaning of the world.