top of page

Tadao Ando

Japanese architect. Born 1941. Winner of Pritzker Prize 1995.

The people of Japan don’t believe in the power of philosophy anymore. It is no coincidence that the destruction of the national road system in the 1970s went hand-in-hand with the collapse of the Japanese intellectual system. Of course, we became an economic giant, but no national power can rely on business alone for longevity. And change won’t come through the democratic system as we know it today.

The second-most-powerful bomb that America dropped on Japan in 1945 was democracy, because it set down only superficial roots. Look at the French revolution of the 18th century – that was a real revolution. It came from inside. Democracies work through individuals that act on their own. In Japan, we don’t have those individuals and that’s why real democracy doesn’t exist. I woke up to this fact when I lived in Paris in 1968 and watched students rebel against the old order. I then thought about what we have in Japan as a kind of hidden communism.

In America, for instance, you have people belonging to different classes who represent their class by expressing their individualities. In Japan, however, a wide range of people share the same income, the same position, and all express the same opinion. With this sameness, we cannot stand at the frontline anymore, as we did during the Meiji revolution or after World War II, when we were fighting to rebuild. We have run out of physical and intellectual power and it’s not present in those who are now in their thirties and forties – the generation responsible for change. In the 1960s, when we had the international design debates here in Japan, we had young thinkers like Kikutake, Kurokawa, and Maki. But where are the Kikutakes, the Kurokawas, and Makis of today? Without people like them we cannot open dialogue with China.

bottom of page