Seeing already two of Ando’s buildings before, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to visit his Sayamaike Museum, which is only half an hour or so from the center of Osaka, located next to the oldest manmade pond for irrigation in Japan – Sayamaike.
A good chunk of my time here in Japan has been spent in train stations, hoping in and out of the never-to-be-late trains, only to be carried away again into the city by relentless crowds.
The building is located on the outskirts of Osaka, in a peaceful residential area, removed from the hustle and bustle of crazy Osaka streets. One may not even notice it when passing by; only the signature concrete walls with grid-like pattern of circular holes give it away. Unlike the Museum of Fine Arts in Kyoto, which somewhat violently opens up to the street with its massive sheared walls, this structure is the complete opposite. The church is like a seashell, turning its plain back to the street while protecting the minimalist, yet complex exterior spaces that lie behind. The unseen complexity gradually reveals itself and is only fully realized after one circulates behind the building. I don’t think I quite understood from the photographs the complex nature of the spaces that lay within the structure. One always sees images of the interior chapel, which is striking for sure, but the spatial intricacies of the exterior are just as powerful. Stairs squeezed between two massive narrow walls that lead nowhere; a planar wall that seamlessly slips from the outside into the interior and then back out again; and the circular bench whose geometric curves highly contrast with the planarity and bareness of the surrounding walls. I remember reading recently what Ando once wrote: “I have tried to create works that betray the expectations of the people who experience my spaces.” Well, he certainly betrayed mine.