Poetics of Light in Architecture Tadao Term Paper

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¶ … Poetics of Light in Architecture: Tadao Ando

Art is an expression of the human spirit. It is a way of describing elements, which lie in the sublime, the world that is just out of reach of the present reality. Architecture is a means for humanity to connect with the finite nature of existence. The edifices that we build in our lifetime will stand long after we are gone as a testimony to our very existence. Buildings are more them concrete and walls to serve a functional purpose. Buildings are a reflection of the humans that built them and their search for a place in the universe. It is for this reason that we study architecture and its various forms. The following will explore the work of modern architect, Tadao Ando in a search for our definition of spirit as expressed by light, shadow and texture in his work.

Ando's Concept of Light and Architecture

Tadao Ando was born in 1941 and witnessed reconstruction of Japan after the war. He was self-taught and drew his inspiration from his travels around the world where he studied the works of famous architects. His work is known for is use of light and space in creating spaces where a person can find connection with the source of all creation. His use of expansive concrete walls gives the impression of expansiveness. Ando uses light play on these walls to define the passage of time and to contrast the world of light with the world of shadow.

Tadao feels that light is the source of creation and he attempts to create clean lines that give the feeling of spatial purity, using a play between light, shadow and the platonic forms. Tadao's work is meant to nurture the spiritual side of humanity as well as its physical side. This is most apparent in his churches and temples. It is not difficult to distinguish the connection of his work to the principles of Zen Buddhism. However, Tadao did not explicitly create his work for a single religion, but for all of humanity that wished to find greater connection to spirit.

Zen Buddhism and related traditional religions, such as Shintoism have had one of the most profound effects on the development of Japanese art and architecture. This philosophy emphasizes the connection between man, heaven, and the world between. The lofty heights of early temples reflect the heavens and man's attempt to ascend these heights. Zen and Shintoism emphasize a connection with nature. This philosophy holds that architecture should blend or compliment the natural surroundings, rather than overpower it, as Western architecture has a tendency to do. Regardless of the setting, Ando's work reflects this desire to compliment the surrounding landscape and to blend with the natural setting as much as possible. The use of light in his structures often reflects the chaotic use of light and shadow in nature.

Light Environment in Traditional Japanese Architecture

Buddhism teaches that man achieves enlightenment through meditation. A man reaches enlightenment when they reach the realization that they are already an enlightened being. The practice of meditation is a key element to this realization. Shintoism places an emphasis on help from deities and spirits (Kami) in the attainment of one's enlightenment. Traditional Japanese art emphases the use of light through monochromatic painting styles and minimalist designs that flow upwards towards heaven. Zen Buddhist art emphasizes simplicity and the importance of nature in aesthetics.

Light is one of the most important elements in Japanese art. Light can either be reflected or absorbed. When it is absorbed, it becomes shadow, which is often thought of as the opposite of light. The interplay and contrast between light and shadow provide food for thought in the practice of meditation. Light and its interaction with various elements form the basis for analysis of Japanese art forms. When asked about traditional Japanese architectural forms, Ando replied,

When you look at Japanese traditional architecture, you have to look at Japanese culture and its relationship with nature. You can actually live in a harmonious, close contact with nature -- this very unique to Japan. Japanese traditional architecture is created based on these conditions. This is the reason you have a very high degree of connection between the outside and inside in architecture."

This statement summarizes the role of nature in Japanese architectural design. The connection with nature is a central theme in Japanese art and architectural design.

Light and Water

When light falls onto the surface of a body of water, it creates interesting effects. The first and foremost effect is that it provides the viewer with a mirror image of themselves and their surroundings. When the water ripples, the image is obscured by the motion. We know intrinsically that water can be hot or cold, cloudy or clear. We know that sediments fall to the bottom and that the surface becomes clear once again when this happens. We know that water is never still and that it is always flowing from one place to another. We know that water itself carries things, but the image that is produced on the surface does not change as long as the waters are not violent.

Water produces an unchanging image on the surface, although in reality the water itself is in motion. It is the depth of these effects that make water an essential element to many types of Japanese design. Water is common element in paintings, sculpture, and gardening. The use of a body of water in architecture produces a sense of calmness and serenity. Water can be used to tie two elements together, such as an indoor and outdoor scene, or a natural setting to an artificial one. Water is an essential element of life on earth and its inclusion in architecture highlights this connection.

Light and Nature

The play between shadow and light is often more complex in nature than in human structures. Consider how light filters through leaves onto a forest floor. There is not predictable pattern and the amount of light can change every few inches. When the wind blows the leaves, the light on the forest floor seems to dance. Light in the human world is often ordered and controlled to such a degree that it would appear the humans could manipulate it for their own purpose.

Consider, for instance, the sundial. This instrument uses light to measure the passage of time accurately. The cycles of night and day give us clues to the passage of time as well. The sharp edges created by buildings give us specific reference points to measure passage of time. Light plays differently in the world of nature and the world of man. Cycles of light and dark help us to organize our world and count the passage of time. We use light to gain a sense of time in our daily lives. Light tells us when it is time to get up and work. The dark signals a time of rest and sleep. Cycles of light help us to track the passage of time in our world and often represent this desire in art as well.

Light and Colour

Colour is a direct result of light. The reflection and absorption of certain wavelengths creates our sense of color. Light plays an important role in the perception of color. Certain colors make us feel different emotions. They can give a piece a certain feel or be used to express a certain emotion. Paints and pigments are the most commonly used methods for imparting color. However, the natural color of the materials can be used to convey emotion as well. For instance, concrete comes in many colors ranging from whites to dark grays. Each of these colors gives a different feel to the piece. Wood grains come in a variety of hues and patterns that can be used to express a variety of feelings. Wood and bamboo are thought of as traditionally Japanese design elements.

One generally associates light colors with happiness and peace. Dark colors often reflect turmoil or chaos. Dark colors tend to set a somber tone. The colors of a piece play an important role in conveying the meaning that it conveys. Monotones are often used in Zen painting to eliminate clues as to the piece's meaning. In the case of monotones, the seeker must meditate to decide the meaning the mood of the piece within themselves. Concrete provides an excellent monotone environment for the seeker. This is the palette that Ando used for many of his creations of religious nature.

Light and Shadow

Humans are often fearful of what they do not understand. Their preference for light is demonstrated by their obsession with the electric light bulb and its ability to turn darkness into light. Humans associate darkness with fear and the darker side of human nature. Humans tend to prefer light to darkness. However, in order to understand ourselves we must explore the areas of our psyche that represent the darker side of our nature. The… [END OF PREVIEW]

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