Affair with Spaces – The Church of The Light

Tadao Ando is one of the architect’s whom I believe is adept at bridging architectural spaces and the human power of conception, through his designs. Morphological preferances are made so as to create definite effects on place and people. An example of his great works is the Church Of The Light in Osaka, Japan.

In this church building, Tadao Ando’s understanding of Christian architecture illuminates the character of the cultural identity of the place in which he plays up the status of the cross, the universal symbol of Christianity. The meaning of light was declared by Ando as “ the origin of all being”, wherein his assertion does not necessarily point toward a metaphysical translucence of light filling the cosmos with spiritual life. It does not propose a journey ascending from the lower level of the beings to the higher spiritual world. Rather, it points out the phenomenal role of light in the context of daily life, “articulating the relationship among beings in a certain space at each movement”. 

Ando intuitively claimed that the light perforating into the emptiness of the Church of the Light pierces one’s body and materialism, the reciprocity between brightness and darkness and lightness and heaviness, rather than merely remaining at the margin of the body. At this movement, the act of seeing the light is not the semiotic gaze, rather the seeing is simultaneously adjoined with the sense of being penetrated by it, generating a corporeal resonance between the perceiver and the light. 

In designing the Church of Light, Tadao Ando took a different approach. Instead of opening up the front wall entirely, he rendered it solid and then pierced it to carve a cross settling deftly between the inside and the outside. Because of this location of “in-between”, the cross gives rise to oscillating effects. First, there emerges a gestalt figure-ground oscillation between the cross and the wall. Second, there emerges a fluctuation between the value of the cross itself and its role as the transparent vehicle for the penetration of light. The cross integrates the iconic permanence with the phenomenal changeability of light.

Based on very simple elements like rectangular boxes and intersecting planes, Ando modelled the church using light and space. His merit lies not only in introducing this element obliquely, that brings dynamism to the serene orthogonal space of the nave, but to separate it a few inches from the roof, allowing light to filter horizontally and giving the impression that the roof is floating in the air.

In the simplest of ways, Tadao Ando reaches out to the inner souls of the people, as the perception is beyond a generic episode of a functional encounter. Instead, it is an affair of the human senses and their equation with the space around them.

Reference – My Architectural moleskin

Akshay Ashok Salunkhe



IRIANS- The Neuroscience Institute


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