Church on the Water, designed by Tadao Ando stands in the midst of Hokkaido’s magnificent natural environment is a great piece of modern church architecture.
Hokkaido, a region of cold winters, is located at the northern end of the Japanese archipelago. The surrounding area is thickly wooded. From spring through summer, it is covered with greenery.
The leaves turn brown in autumn, and the region is covered with snow in winter. The church building complex is a place in this rich natural environment where we can hear the blowing of the wind, the murmur of a stream and the songs of birds.
Geometry and Form of the Church on the Water
A natural brook has been diverted to form an artificial lake, and the church designed by ando, which has a geometrical form, stands against the background of the lake. This landscape, integrating natural scenery, garden and architecture, is a masterpiece of contemporary Japanese landscape design.
The landscape gardens of England, the geometrical gardens of continental Europe, the famous gardens of China and the gardens of Islam are well known, but examples in contemporary architecture of the reconstruction of a natural landscape on such a grand scale are very rare.
A wall, L-shaped in plan, shields the church building and the artificial lake, and guides us to the church. At first, the water is hidden from sight by the extended wall. As we walk, we hear only the sound of the water.
Turning the corner at one end of the wall, we suddenly see the wide expanse of the lake. There is a sense of release, as if our bodies were melting into the landscape.
Planning and arrangement of Spaces
The building plan is two overlapping squares, one 5o feet to a side and the other 33 feet. In the smaller square, four crosses are arranged with their ends nearly touching.
The walls are double-layered for heat insulation because of the cold winters. The total thickness of the exposed concrete walls, both outside and inside the building. is 35 inches, which includes a middle layer of styrofoam. The floor too is double-layered, and all rooms have underfloor heating.
The technical measures and the detailing throughout the building must have required great effort to devise and execute, but no trace of that effort is apparent on the surface.
The harsh environment has given birth to a beautiful landscape, and effort not apparent to observers has given birth to a beautiful building. Seemingly effortless effort has created a crystalline space.
Other Churches Designed by Architect Tadao Ando
Ando has designed three churches: Chapel on Mt, Rokko (referred to in japan as Church of the Wind) halfway up a mountain near Kobe, Church of the Light in a residential district in an Osaka suburb, and Church on the Water in the grand natural environment of Hokkaido.
These buildings are designed around three natural elements—wind, light and water.
Although Ando uses concrete in all three churches, they are very different buildings; each has its own unique character, each being a great work of modern church design.
He in fact has an idea for a church of the sea—a church washed by the waves. Just the idea of it is highly evocative. Ando is always able to explain his work concisely and to captivate a listener immediately.
To summarize the above text, I can only say that Ando’s Church on Water is a true masterpiece of architecture from the point of view of its concept and spiritual appeal.