Teorema 005: Preliminary design sketch, Church of the Light, by Tadao Ando, 1987

Teorema 005: Preliminary design sketch, Church of the Light, by Tadao Ando, 1987

This image displays preliminary sketches for the Church of the Light in Ibaraki, Osaka, Japan. It was designed in 1987–1988, and underwent construction during 1988 –1989.

It consists of a rectangular volume sliced through at a fifteen-degree angle by a completely freestanding wall that separates the entrance from the chapel. Light penetrates the profound darkness of this box through a cross which is cut out of the altar wall. The floor and pews are made of rough scaffolding planks, which are low cost and also ultimately suited to the character of the space. I have always used natural materials for parts of a building that come into contact with people’s hands or feet, as I am convinced that materials having substance,such as wood or concrete, are invaluable for building, and that it is essentially through our senses that we become aware of architecture.…[O]penings have been limited in this space, for light shows its brilliance only against a backdrop of darkness. Nature’s presence is also limited to the element of light and is rendered exceedingly abstract. In responding to such an abstraction, the architecture grows continually purer. The linear pattern formed on the floor by rays from the sun and a migrating cross of light expresses with purity man’s relationship with nature.

The sketch has been rendered with black ink on heavy Japanese paper. The black ink is very dense in places, such as the crosses, while in other areas it skips off of the heavy paper in haste. The ink shows strong contrast to the white paper and is very definitive. Architects, artists, and authors have feared the blank page because the first stroke sets the stage for what comes after: the entirely White paper can be intimidating. The blank sheet expects something profound, and any marks stand out strongly in the vast whiteness. Ando does not erase or scratch out any images, but he finds a blank space in which to draw. He sketches confidently, allowing the forms to overlap as his ideas flow.

The page contains several sketches in plan and axonometric. One small sketch appears to be a plan for the organization of the pews in the chapel or the processional movement, a rectangle with many horizontals. The shaded sketches are details showing the thickness of the walls and how the light would glow through the cross opening. The ink used to make the crosses creates a reversal; the Wall was meant to be dark and the cross glowing with light.

The minimal forms tell the story of a conceptually strong approach to the light in a small chapel. In writing about the importance of sketches in design process, Ando writes: my sketch[es] usually help me to clear and refine the initial image and to integrate it with architectural space and details.

From Kendra Schank Smith, Architects Drawings, Architectural Press, Oxford, 2005

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