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.