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ArgumentNo. 3/2011

Tadao Ando’S minimalism, continuing the traditional japanese zen philosophy


motto: “I have the somewhat arrogant belief that the way people lead their lives can be directed, even if merely a little, by means of architecture”

This chapter will be based on two elements: the Zen philosophy and the way it is reflected in the concepts of Tadao Ando, the architect who brings the Japanese traditions into the contemporary background. I will briefly introduce the system of beliefs of the Zen philosophy, and will continue by examining, based on Tadao Ando’s works and interviews, the link between architecture and the Zen philosophy. Where’s the connection between the two? Firstly, the Zen school of thought is one of the most significant Japanese philosophies, and the architect feels constantly guided and inspired by its traditions. Secondly, we often encounter the Zen concept in architecture and design magazines, as an attribute of minimalist spaces and atmosphere, as if minimalism were a defining feature of the Zen approach to life.

I have developed my study based on Osho’s lectures, collected in the book The Zen Way, on some thoughts of Suzuki Roshi3 and on a number of other significant stories and sayings from the Zen literature detailed in the bibliography.

Choosing to study Tadao Ando’s architecture has suddenly become a given fact, since he is, on one hand, the most popular minimalist architect, based on how often his name is mentioned in dedicated magazines, and, on the other hand, a part of the Japanese culture, whose traditional concepts he constantly uses in defining himself and his work. Hence, an analysis of his work will shed light on how much and in what way we find here the Zen concepts.

What is Zen, after all, and what does it have to do with minimalism?


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