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'The Space of Light' designed by Tadao Ando illuminates South Korea's Museum SAN

Inspired by the geometry of platonic solids, the pavilion by Tadao Ando graces the museum’s sculpture garden with its meditative simplicity.

by STIRworldPublished on : Aug 10, 2023

In the heart of the picturesque mountain landscape of Wonju in South Korea, Museum SAN stands as a harmonious union of space, art, and nature (SAN). As the museum commemorates its 10the anniversary, its architect Tadao Ando has erected a meditative pavilion titled The Space of Light within the complex’s sculpture garden. The pavilion is exhibited as part of a large-scale solo exhibition called Youth that brings together evocative displays chronicling Ando’s vast-reaching influence on contemporary architecture. The showcase has toured the globe, to cities such as Tokyo, Paris, Milan, Shanghai, Beijing, and Taiwan before it was brought to the Museum SAN.

The smooth concrete structure interacting with its natural context | Museum SAN | Tadao Ando| STIRworld
The smooth concrete structure interacting with its natural context Image: Courtesy of Museum SAN

The Pritzker-winning architect has extensively explored meditative spaces throughout his career—from the design of various churches that embrace nature, to spaces conceived specifically for meditation. The new pavilion offers a unique juxtaposition to its predecessor, a meditation hall that was also designed by the Japanese architect. While the former embraced gentle curves and a dome-shaped structure, The Space of Light stands stoic and rigid, inspired by the geometric beauty of platonic solids.

Pavilion situated atop a gentle slope | Museum SAN | Tadao Ando| STIRworld
Pavilion situated atop a gentle slope Image: Courtesy of Museum SAN

To access the structure, visitors follow an introspective path that creates anticipation towards the upcoming space, extending the journey to the meditative destination. By eliminating distractions and directing focus, this path serves as both a physical and psychological connection. Upon entering the pavilion, beams of bright sunlight slicing through the square concrete structure fixate one’s attention. Narrow symmetrical slits on the roof converge, casting light onto the floor and softly illuminating the walls. Despite its lack of religious intent, the pavilion exudes an almost sacred aura, inviting introspection and contemplation. Drawing parallels to Ando's iconic Church of Light, The Space of Light reimagines the interplay of light and structure, intertwining this natural element with one's self-exploration. Ando's fascination with unobstructed light, contrasted with stark shadow and seemingly unaltered geometry, finds its expression within this new space. The absence of glass allows natural light to cascade uninterrupted, creating an ethereal experience that blurs the boundaries between the built and natural worlds. "Light is much more beautiful without the glass," Ando explains. "One day, I would like to get rid of the glass in the Church of Light."

Top view of the pavilion showing the opening slits for the light | Museum SAN | Tadao Ando| STIRworld
Top view of the pavilion showing the opening slits for the light Image: Courtesy of Museum SAN

Ando's architectural language is characterised by minimalist compositions of exposed concrete emphasising nothingness and the power of empty spaces to represent the beauty of simplicity. His mastery of the material has enabled him to craft spaces that surgically use light and wind, to create symphonies of patterns and atmospheres. The geometry of his designs, seemingly abstract at first glance, unveils meticulously calibrated spaces designed for human interaction and contemplation. The interplay between volumes and light within his structures leads to rich sensory experiences. Since establishing his practice in 1969, he has designed over 200 buildings of which notable examples include the Rokko housing development, the Church of the Light, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The projects display his commitment to creating structures that are both functional and emotionally engaging, as well as coherent to the natural landscape and infused with the cultural context. He believes reformation in society is a transformation of identity, generated by a dialogue between the built environment and its inhabitants.

Meditative experience of the interiors | Museum SAN | Tadao Ando| STIRworld
Meditative experience of the interiors Image: Courtesy of Museum SAN

The self-taught Japanese architect's undeniable influence on contemporary architecture is brought forth through the aforementioned exhibition as visitors navigate through the evocative displays. Youth has been organised into four sections, each portraying a distinctive aspect of Ando's architectural journey. Primitive Shapes of Space explores the fundamental elements of design that define Ando's creations, while Landscape Genesis articulates his mastery of blending man-made structures with the natural environment. Similarly, An Urban Challenge confronts the complexities of cityscapes, and Dialogues with History elaborates on Ando's reverence and response to the past. The exhibition ends with Projects in Naoshima, which is a tribute to Ando's revitalisation and reimagination of the island's architectural landscape.

The Space of Light was inaugurated on August 01, 2023. Youth will be on display at Museum SAN up to October 29, 2023.

(Text by Aatmi Chitalia, Intern at STIR)

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