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top view of naoshima art museum

Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, Kagawa by Tadao Ando

Naoshima Art Museum’s Architecture

Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum was designed by the architecture Tadao Ando, the museum stands on a promontory on a small island floating in the Inland Sea. The building is relaxed and at rest-stretched out as if to enjoy the view of the sea. The spacious site creates an impression of brightness, lightness, and outward orientation; curved lines seem to dance joyously. The inward-oriented seriousness of Tadao Ando’s works in cities is absent; instead, there is a sense of release about this building. The eluding geometry design of an inhibiting, prescriptive character, the building has seemingly fled to nature in search of freedom and release. We sense a centrifugal force at work. Walls constructed through natural stone, terraces, and plazas are arranged throughout the site. Here, nature and architecture disport themselves; climate and geometry melt into one another.

Let us approach this museum by boat from the sea. Like the entrance to a house, the pier welcomes us. Next, there is a concrete wall and a broad terraced plaza of natural stone. This is a garden placed in the midst of maternal nature, a device that articulates and draws attention to the latter. Tadao Ando designed a landscape out of nature with minimal manipulation. That was always the traditional predisposition of Japanese culture. For example, correlations between Ando’s spaces and Japanese haiku have been pointed out from time to time. Haiku is an extremely short verse form of a highly normative character; it must contain a “season word” and three metrical units of five, seven, and five syllables respectively. Using geometry, Ando likewise articulates the landscape into phrases and generates another nature within nature.

Naoshima Art Museum’s Plans and Sketches

Let us look at his plans. A hotel, an art museum, a restaurant, and a hall are designed radially around an enormous cylinder
Naoshima Art Museum Plan and Sketch. Function and geometry are clearly coordinated. The radial composition of space projects an image of the centrifugal force. However, it is impossible to get an overall image of the building from any angle because the building is embedded in the ground. We can experience only a portion of the space at any one time. Our eyes shift from one direction to another in search of an overall image.


Naoshima Art Museum Interior

The cylinder, on the other hand, is a node integrating vertical lines of circulation. However, because of the sloping topography, we are underground in one room but find ourselves above ground in the next. As we move, the landscape blends into the geometry; nature and geometry are at play. The landscape breaks through the perimeter of the building and invades the interior; the rooms are filled, each with a different landscape.

Also See: Kidosaki House design by Tadao Ando

Lodge’s Architecture and Interior Design

Upon complete construction of the museum, a second phase consisting mainly of lodgings was designed to build on a hill behind the museum. A cable car takes us from the museum to the top of the hill. Leaving behind the station, we pass through a garden with a waterfall; we see a water garden at the bottom of an elliptical opening in the hill. The water reflects the sky framed by the ellipse. The guest rooms constructed around the elliptical garden afford beautiful views of the Inland Sea. This is a “detached palace” in a quiet world of its own.

Light and air, rendered extremely abstract, fill the interior spaces of Ando’s religious buildings and private houses. In this work, however, the landscape is quite specific. By enabling us to actually “feel” specific objects and phenomena in the landscape such as sunsets, the wake of a boat, cresting waves, silhouettes of distant islands, and stormy skies, he creates spaces that restore to us our physicality and sensitivity.