Honpukuji: Tadao Ando’s Temple of Water
On Awaji Island, just south of the city of Kobe, can be found a round Shingon Buddhist Temple constructed beneath a lotus pond. Ando reinterprets age-old Chinese influenced Buddhist architecture by dividing the site into the asymmetrical, above ground entry and below ground sanctuary. The extensive entry area, composed of obliquely positioned, poured-in-place concrete walls, ends at the entrance staircase. The effect is a dramatic transition from the outside mundane world to the solemn, inner one, below the ground. This dimly lit, vermillion-colored underground sanctuary seats very few people, allowing for intimacy.
Says Gunter Nitschke in his book, From Shinto to Ando, Studies in Architectural Anthropology in Japan, “In contrast to the vastness of the open sky reflected in the pond, the interior of the hall under the convex ceiling (the bottom of the pond) is kept enclosed and dim. Natural light comes through a light room from due west.
At sunset, the reddish décor of the sanctuary is brilliantly deepened, heightening the suggestions that one is in the womb.