Lesser-Known Library architecture by Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando International Library of Children's Literature arch building

Lesser-Known Library Architecture by Tadao Ando

Immersed in the world of Tadao Ando’s architecture, one can’t help but be captivated by the sheer simplicity and groundbreaking vision of his designs.

Tadao Ando, a beacon of modern architecture, has a global reputation for creating spaces that are both minimalistic and awe-inspiring. His work, particularly in Naoshima, draws guests from all corners, eager to experience the tranquility and innovation of his designs.
While Tokyo is home to some of his more famous creations like the 21_21 Design Site, Omotesando Hills, and Tokyo University’s Fukutake Hall, I’m excited to share with you a hidden treasure nestled in the heart of Ueno Park: the International Library of Children’s Literature.


Not too obvious...

At first glance, Ando’s signature raw concrete might not be immediately apparent in some of his Tokyo works. The International Library of Children’s Literature is a perfect example. With its Renaissance-style facade, it commands attention, yet the glass entrance subtly hints at a modern touch. This building, seamlessly integrating into its surroundings, has clearly been part of the landscape for decades.

Venture to the back of the library, and you’re greeted with a stunning revelation: a historical structure enveloped by a glass curtain wall, with an arch-shaped extension adding a modern twist. It’s a beautiful blend of the original Imperial Library at the front and Ando’s contemporary design at the back, a dance of history and present-day aesthetics. Similarly, Omotesando Hills, from certain angles, quietly reveals its Ando touch. A walk around and inside these structures is highly recommended to fully appreciate their architectural story.

International Library of Children's Literature by Tadao Ando

The Library’s history, dating back to 1906, reflects Japan’s transition into the modern world. In a time when Japan cherished its bunko and kyōzō, the Meiji-era libraries emerged as gateways to Western learning, as evidenced by their Western architectural styles. The library, though planned in three phases, couldn’t achieve its full grandeur until the final phase due to financial constraints.
Join us on our Ueno Park architecture tour to dive deeper into the intriguing narrative of its original designs!

Ueno Park Architecture Tour

Ueno Park is a great place to follow the footstep of Japan's Modern Architecture from the end of the 1800s till now.

The library underwent a significant transformation in 1993. Tadao Ando, with deep respect for its historical value, proposed a seismic retrofitting that not only safeguarded the existing structure but also introduced a harmonious glass addition, weaving together the the Meiji (1868-1912), Showa (1926-1989), and Heisei (1989-2019) eras in a single architectural tapestry.

Tadao Ando International Library of Children's Literature arch building
Tadao Ando Library
Tadao Ando Library
Tadao Ando Library

Ando’s work often revitalizes historical buildings, much like the transformative project of The Bourse de Commerce (2020) in Paris. He brings a fresh perspective to old structures, creating a harmonious blend of past and present. This approach, reminiscent of a family tree where each generation adds its unique touch, inspires a reimagining of historical buildings as living, evolving entities, not mere relics of the past.

Inside the Children’s Library, there’s a space that always reminds me of The Bourse de Commerce.

Tadao Ando Library

Ando’s architectural narrative feels vibrant and ever-evolving, each project laying the groundwork for the next. The Children’s Library, a prelude to the Bourse de Commerce, is a testament to this continuous evolution, offering a glimpse into an earlier chapter of Ando’s unfolding architectural legacy.

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