Tadao Ando’s Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts

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Man articulates the world through his body. . . . The world articulated by the body is a vivid, lived-in space. . . . the body is articulated by the world. When ‘I’ perceive the concrete to be something cold and hard, “I’ recognize the body as something warm and soft.

Tadao Ando, “Shintai and Space,” Architecture and Body

Japanese architect Tadao Ando designs reinforced concrete buildings which follow the principle of béton brut. French for ‘raw concrete,’ this is concrete left unfinished, its surfaces bearing the imprint of its formwork.

These imprints include:

  • The grid created by the joints of the modular plywood sheets used as forms
  • The imprint of the plywood’s raised wood grain
  • Rows of small concave cylinder-shaped pockets where formwork fasteners were located

Surfaces reveal subtle imperfections of hand formwork: seam lines, gradations of color and texture and other characteristics. This is architecture which derives beauty from its constructive logic.

Béton brut is a form of structural expressionism. It is based on modern architecture’s tenet of truth to materials, the belief that a material’s role should be based on its essential nature and that it should be left unfinished and exposed.

Several years ago I visited Tadao Ando’s building for the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis.

The following are some photos I took that day, including sculptor Richard Serra’s ‘Joe,’ itself an exemplar of truth to materials with its torqued spiral of weathering steel.

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18 thoughts on “Tadao Ando’s Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts

  1. Tadao Ando’s concrete work is beautiful but unfortunately most concrete contractors who attempt to build those structures are in for an arduous adventure. I know of one or two who went out of business because they underestimated the finish requirements and tolerances. No piece of form work is reused so as to allow as consistent a surface texture as possible.

    The work is expensive but an Ando project is worth it in the long run as the quality shows. Better finished concrete tends to better withstand deterioration.

  2. Tadao Ando has great taste in design with this concrete building. It’s clear that a majority of this building is concrete, what are some steps Ando took when it comes to cracking or exposure to water?

  3. I believe that the reason why tadao was so successful was because how passionate he was over his work. is there anyone else that can design and build under the principles of beton brut

  4. Ando is an amazing architect in my opinion. I had never heard of him until I read this blog. I’ve noticed several different types of windows in the pictures above. Which types are best for specific climates?

  5. I never knew concrete could be used unfinished and still look nice. Is it possible to deliberately give concrete a textured pattern (like stamped concrete) with out it losing its strength?

  6. Tadao Ando’s work is beautiful in a way that it is simplistic yet complex. Seeing that it is not typical to find a lot of concrete buildings, how are such buildings kept insulated?

  7. In my opinion materials in there raw form such as concrete are appealing and add character and a certain uniqueness because of the way they are formed. My question is when it comes to the raw form of these materials such as concrete how cost effective are they and how to you ensure its sustainability as far as how long it last and protection from the elements?

  8. I’m impressed with the clean and straight edges. However, I don’t see too many windows. Did the architect implement any skylights to acquire sufficient day lighting?

  9. I like how they used the term structural expressionism to define the characteristics of the building design. The unfinished and free design is like a part of nature.

  10. I like the idea of using the imperfections of concrete as a characteristic of the building. It’s art but it’s simplified.

  11. beautifal building accented by the sculputure. the uniformity is highly standout ish. my personal favorite building style, concrete EVERYWHERE. my question to you is why would they build this building in such away. comparitavley the material cost is obviously low, but apeal does the final product have to the owner?

  12. Very beautiful pictures! Interesting to know that there are architects out there that believe in the beauty of materials that are left unfinished, but just wondering is there anything else that Tadao Ando focuses on besides reinforced concrete?

  13. Concrete is one of the most used materials in construction and, right now, one of the strongest. However, to make a structure out of unfinished concrete says a great deal about the person them self. Is this going to become the new number for special types pf buildings?

  14. I see this form of concrete built all over Miami, FL. I do believe that forming such massive buildings of concrete is very tedious but in the end it becomes such a beautiful piece of work.

    How long does it take

  15. This building, this style of design and build and this Architect show the continuation of sustainability and function. Not only is the use of the materials remaining true, but it also makes the building more “public” by having the interior just as visible as the exterior. Under structural expressionism, it shines light on Brutalism as well. Whether coincidence or irony, Architecture can be compared to the progression of social appearance in terms of what is proper and what isn’t. As time passed, it became more acceptable for women to wear less articles of clothing. As with Architecture, designs and construction have allowed buildings to be more open and welcoming in their appearance; requiring less materials each time. A relation of Architecture and Body.

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