A window can be more than just a portal for light or ventilation.
It can frame views.
It can bring the outside in.
It can extend the room outward towards the horizon and beyond.
Tadao Ando’s Church of the Water is, in many ways, the antithesis of his Church of the Light. Here, the celebration is not of the ephemeral, but of nature.
As with the Church of the Light, the Church of the Water also dispenses with much of the traditional visual language of churches, with a form reduced to several intersecting boxes made of his trademark silky smooth concrete. Inside the simple nave, attention is immediately drawn towards the giant window that forms the back wall – or, more often than, not the large opening where there would be a back wall. The entire window can be rolled off to the side, opening the church to the stepped reflecting pond that leads the eye towards the tree line. Light, water, air, sound, and nature all become part of the room. As the seasons change so too does the experience of the chapel. The green of summer, the colours of fall, the white purity of winter, the blooming spring.
Entering the building is an experience of itself, designed to be a procession that leads up to a glass and steel cube perched atop the structure before down a dark spiral stairway into the larger cube of the chapel.
As with many of Ando’s works, the Church on the water starts with a simple concept, rigorously developed into form of careful proportions and details. It takes the essence of a church and creates something familiar yet strikingly different, even playful. It’s sensual architecture.
When I’m able to visit Japan, it’s on my list of places to experience.