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Church on the Water, Shimukappu, Japan

Location: Nakatomamu, Shimukappu, Yufutsu District, Japan
Year built: 1988
Architect: Tadao Ando

Church on the Water is a Japanese wedding chapel in Tomamu, Shimukappu on the island of Hokkaido. Sloping down towards a small river in a clearing of beech trees, it is surrounded by hills to the west and a hotel resort to the east.

The church itself is formed of two overlapping cubes and uses nature as an element in its overall design. The larger cube serves as the chapel and connects to the smaller cube via a spiral staircase. A long, L-shaped wall runs alongside the east and south sides of the building to separate it from the hotel.

One of the church’s most notable features is its operable front wall, which is made of glass and showcases the beautiful live scene over the water. The other three walls of the church are concrete and frame the steel cross in the centre of the pond.

About Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando is a self-taught architect from Osaka, Japan. He was training to be a boxer before deciding to pursue architecture. Attending night classes to learn how to draw, he launched his own design studio in 1968 under the name Tadao Ando Architects and Associates.

Religion and lifestyle strongly influence Ando’s designs and his architectural style is said to create a “haiku” effect, emphasising empty space to represent the beauty of simplicity. Church on the Water was completed in 1988, but his other notable works include the Chikatsu Asuka Museum, the Nagaragawa Convention Center, Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester and the 152 Elizabeth Street Condominiums in New York.

The Church on the Water incorporates some elements of the modernist architecture which the architect confesses were influenced by Le Corbusier’s works. It also brings a new interpretation of the traditional Japanese architecture. Different to the confined spaces we normally see in traditional churches, in this project Ando designed an open plan allowing a wide view of its surroundings. The cross placed in the middle of the pond (exposed to the weather) and composing the view across different seasons, provides the visitors an amazing spiritual experience. – Mauro Nakashima

Photos by Forgemind ArchiMedia / Flickr, @g.c.5.1.1 & @j_pcy