CONCRETE SPLENDOR continued from page 82
Koolhaas and Holl apartments in Fukuoka. The trendy, expendable
Hello Kitty constructions that Japanese architects were filling their
cities with at the time. With my concrete fetish then in full swing, all
I really wanted to see were Ando’s buildings, particularly his religious
buildings, where, given the nature of the program, the concrete could
be more wholly concrete.
As with millions of pilgrims before and since, I wasn’t disappointed.
The Church of the Light, a concrete box lit by a cruciform window
behind the altar, was a revelation, not just for its unlikely serenity—it
sits on a loud and homely corner in the suburbs of Osaka—but for the
perfection of its pours. I realized there that all the American concrete
I had grown up loving, all the béton brut (“raw concrete”) I’d traveled
through Europe to adore, had only been riffing on a single, rather
mundane note. Concrete this perfect was otherworldly. From there it
was off to Awaji, an island in the Inland Sea, where Ando had built
a facility for Buddhist monks known as the Water Temple. Putting
water in contact with concrete, as Ando did there—on the roof, no
less, in a pool through which one enters down a staircase—is an act
of pure hubris, water being the one thing you want to keep away from
concrete, the element that will, as surely as a jackhammer, reduce it
to dust in time.
Ando played a similarly charged game with his famous Church on
the Water, in Hokkaido (which I regret not being able to visit), and the
pools surrounding his 2002 museum in Fort Worth (which I have not
yet seen). He is set to perform the same trick in his master plan for the
Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
There, gods and budgets willing, he will eventually complete an exhibition, visitor, and conference center set on a large continued on page 86
Top: The building’s terrace provides stunning vistas of the
Taconic Range and the Green Mountains. Above: The center
is nestled into a wooded hillside. Below: This view of the
courtyard shows the variety of textures Ando achieves using
one of architecture’s most elemental materials. Gensler
served as architect of record for the project.
Top, Jeff Goldberg/Esto, courtesy Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute;
others, Richard Pare, courtesy Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute