Shown above is the Church of the Light in Osaka, built by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. In his autobiography “Tadao Ando Architect,” Ando says how he constructed the building. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Japanese architect tells his life story

When it comes to great architects, such Westerners as Antoni Gaudi and Frank Gehry may come to mind of people. But there is an Asian who can stand a comparison with them.

The man is Tadao Ando from Japan, a self-taught architect who never studied at a university but developed a unique architectural philosophy.

“Tadao Ando, Architect” is an autobiography of the Japanese who authored the book with passion and candor.

Born in 1941 in Osaka, Ando was raised by his maternal grandmother. Realizing that he had little chance as a boxer, he took his first architectural project at the age of 18 by designing a nightclub’s interior.

Although he never had formal training in the field, Ando developed his own taste and technique through trials and error.

He has mostly worked with concrete, which he believes is a perfect balance of steel bars, water, sand, and aggregate. Now, people call his unprecedented recipe as “Ando concrete.”

The Church of the Light in Osaka and the Chapel on the Water in Hokkaido are included in the list of his masterpieces.

In 1995, he received the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is referred to as the Nobel Prize for architecture.

Korean people can also see his structures at JEI Creative Center in central Seoul as well as Genius Loci and Glass House in Jeju Island.

Genius Loci is now used as Yumin Art Gallery, which displays glasswork from the Ecole de Nancy. Yumin is the pen name of former Justice Minister Hong Jin-ki, a maternal grandfather of Samsung tycoon Lee Jae-yong.

“Because I am a self-taught architect, readers may expect a great success story. But that is not the case,” he writes. “Without any proper educational background and supporters, I failed so many times.”

“Nevertheless, I muddled through difficulties, betting on slight possibilities. My life was all about hardships, and I managed to find a path by grappling with hardships.”

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.