Japanese architect Tadao Ando‘s amazing work usually impresses, but his latest project is particularly breathtaking. Charged with creating a more serene environment for a beloved 44-feet-tall Buddha sculpture, which had stood as a solitary figure in Sapporo’s Makomanai Takino Cemetery for 15 years, Ando carefully embedded an amazing open-air prayer hall in the natural landscape around the iconic statue, keeping the Buddha’s head above ground as sign of reverence.
Holding court on a large sloping hill surrounded by lavender fields, the stone statue is over 44-feet-tall and weighs 1,500 tons. For years it stood as a solitary figure in the field, but locals wanted to create a more harmonious atmosphere. Ando’s vision was to build a prayer hall around the figure without hiding it completely inside an artificial structure. The result is a respectful design of an open-air concrete prayer hall surrounding the Buddha that would leave the sculpture’s presence as it had been for years, but with a more purposeful setting better suited for visitors.
Ando’s design – what he refers to as “head-out Buddha” – comprises a stone rotunda reached by a long tunnel. According to him, the somber aesthetic of the landscape architectural project was intentional: “The design intention was to create a vivid spatial sequence, beginning with the long approach through the tunnel in order to heighten anticipation of the statue, which is invisible from the outside. When the hall is reached, visitors look up at the Buddha, whose head is encircled by a halo of sky at the end of the tunnel.”
Photography by Shigeo Ogawa and Makomanai Takinoreien Cemetery