Tadao Ando, a 53 year-old architect who lives and works in Osaka, Japan, was named the eighteenth Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In making the announcement, Jay A. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, which established the award in 1979, quoted from the jury's citation which describes Ando's architecture as "an assemblage of artistically composed surprises in space and form ... that both serve and inspire ... with never a predictable moment as one moves throughout his buildings.

"Ando is the third Japanese architect to be selected for his profession's highest honor which carries a $100,000 grant. The formal presentation was made on May 22 in the Grand Trianon Palace at Versailles, France.

Pritzker affirmed the jury's choice, saying, "Ando conceives his projects as places of habitation not as abstract designs in a landscape. It is not surprising that he is often referred to by his professional peers and critics as being as much a builder as an architect. That emphasizes how important he considers craftsmanship in accomplishing his designs. He requires absolute precision in the making and casting of his concrete forms to achieve the smooth, clean and perfect concrete for his structures."

Even though nearly all of his projects make use of cement as the primary building material, he was a carpenter's apprentice for short time where he learned the craftsmanship of traditional Japanese wooden construction. In fact, one of his most widely known structures was built almost entirely of wood, the Japanese Pavilion for Expo '92 in Spain.

Most of Ando's projects have been in Japan, concentrated mainly in the Osaka area where he was born, raised and currently lives and works. In addition to a number of inspiring religious structures, he has designed museums, commercial buildings that include offices, factories and shopping centers. His professional career began, however, with residential projects.

One of his first commissions was for a small row house in 1977 in his native Osaka, called Azuma House, which received the top prize of the Architectural Institute of Japan in 1979. He has designed a number of significant homes—for single and multiple families—sometimes for mixed commercial/residential use, as well as apartment complexes. 

Bill Lacy, executive director for the international panel of jurors that elects the Laureate each year, quoted further from the formal citation from the jury which states, "Ando has accomplished an extraordinary body of work. His powerful inner vision ignores whatever movements, schools or styles that might be current, creating buildings with form and composition related to the kind of life that will be lived there.

Lacy, who is an architect himself and president of the State University of New York at Purchase, elaborated, "A key part of Ando's architectural philosophy is the creation of boundaries within which he can create introspective domains, encapsulating space where people can interrelate to light and shadow, wind and water, away from the surrounding urban chaos. 

The selection of Ando marks the third Pritzker Laureate from Japan. Kenzo Tange was the first in 1987 and Fumihiko Maki in 1993 confirming that country's indelible mark on twentieth century modernist architecture that was previously almost exclusively American and European mainstream."

As a self-taught architect, with no architectural degree or even training with a master architect, Ando attributes his development to extensive reading and a number of study trips to Europe and the United States to see actual buildings from history. He kept detailed sketch books of all his travels which he still does to this day.

One of his most important housing projects is called Rokko Housing, which was accomplished in two phases the first has twenty units each with a terrace but differing in size and layout, the second, comprising 50 units, was completed in 1993. While the units appear to be uniform on the outside, each one has a unique interior. Built of reinforced concrete with a rigid frame, the units are embedded in the side of sixty degree sloping hillside with a panoramic view of Osaka Bay, and provide such amenities as a swimming pool and a rooftop plaza. Ando received Japan's Cultural Design Prize in 1983 for this project.

Ando's other residential projects include the three-story Ishihara House in Osaka, another concrete bearing wall structure with a unique central court surrounded by a glass block membrane. Another three-story residence is the Horiuchi House, which uses a glass block wall as a freestanding screen between the home and street traffic.

He continues to build residences, always with a sense of sanctuary, but he has broadened his palette to include other types of structures. Some of these new directions include the Church of Light and the Church on the Water for Christian worshipers, and the striking Buddhist Water Temple, entered through a staircase piercing a lotus pond. The Children's Museum at Hyogo and the Forest of Tombs Museum at Kumamoto are remarkable examples of his use of stairs and underground space.

In 1993, Ando received the Japan Art Academy Prize; in 1992, the Carlsberg Architectural Prize in Denmark, adding to the honors already received, including the French Academy of Architecture's Gold Medal in 1989; the Alvar Aalto Medal in 1985; the Mainichi Art Prize in 1987 for the Chapel on Mt. Rokko; the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize, and the Japanese Ministry of Education's prize to encourage new talent in the fine arts in 1986. Ando is an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the American Institute of Architects, the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters.


Read Tadao Ando's Essay