Scrapbook of a Future Nobleman

Awaji Island: Ando’s Playground

Awaji Island, Japan

It’s pretty well-known that Renzo Piano’s Osaka Kansai International Airport (KIX for you world travelers) is built on a gigantic man-made island, widely considered to be one of the greatest feats of engineering over the last century. What is less known is where all the fill for the island came from. The hills of Awaji, a large island in the inland sea between Honshu and Shikoku, were dug out to provide it, leaving a significant portion of the island looking like a scarred old quarry. Probably because of this, Japanese officials called on Tadao Ando, the country’s most famous modern architect, to design a hotel by the sea. After the Kobe Earthquake of 1995, the program was expanded and Ando got essentially free reign to design the island. Now complete, the area includes a hotel, an international conference center, gardens, an outdoor theater, and botanical gardens as well as shops and restaurants.

One way to get to Awaji Island is to cross the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge from Kobe, which has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world. The island is also well-known for a set of famous whirlpools, and according to Shinto creation myth was the first of the oyashima islands to be born.

We got to explore the island for a couple of hours, and just before we left we actually got to meet Tadao Ando himself, who very graciously stopped to take a photo with our group before running off to give a speech that he was late for. As much as I love Ando’s work – he is a master at using concrete humanely and he does amazing things with light – much of Awaji felt like a sculptural folly. It was beautiful and cool to wander around in, but it was almost a piece of art and not a useful building, a feeling emphasized by the fact that we hardly saw anyone else in much of the complex, though that may also have had something to do with the rain. Even so, it was a fantastic place to explore. Enjoy these photos of some modern architecture…

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, JapanAwaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan

Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan