Rachel’s Design Icon - Tadao Ando

Having already looked at design icons like Zaha Hadid, Charles and Ray Eames, and Tom Dixon, it's time for our Senior Designer, Rachel Rees to tell us about her own icon and inspiration when it comes to office design - Japanese architect Tadao Ando.


Being a disorganised person who's normally surrounded by ‘organised clutter,’ I’m much inspired by the peace and order of an almost empty room that encourages ‘headspace’ to reflect. This is the reason behind my chosen design icon.

In the words of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, the home should be a place of sanctuary as demonstrated in his New York building, 152 Elizabeth (see below,) a piece of ‘quiet architecture.’  It evokes contemplation and relaxation, designed in a distinctly Japanese style.

Known as ‘Critical Regionalism,’ Tadao Ando’s approach, is the idea of promoting a local or national culture within architecture.


   Church of Light, Osaka                          Benesse Oval House       

Traditional Japanese design is based on craftsmanship, beauty, and delicacy. It's the idea that a room’s true beauty is in the empty space and that the mood should be captured in the imagination and not so heavily dictated by what is physically present.

This theory is in close connection with nature. Timbers, bamboo, silk, rice straw mats and ‘paper shōji screens’ are used, working in harmony with neutral palettes.  Impermanence is another a strong theme, with room size that can be altered by interior sliding walls or screens (the already mentioned ‘shoji’).

Cupboards are built smoothly into walls, hiding futons, allowing more space to be available  during the day. The versatility of these dwellings becomes more apparent with changes of seasons. In summer, for example, exterior walls can be opened to bring in the garden and cooling breezes bringing the outside in.

Today this multi-functional and flexible theme should be the basic thinking for every designer,

Designer Tom Ford’s Mexico Ranch

Born in 1941 and self-taught, Ando celebrates traditional Japanese architecture in a contemporary way in all his buildings to date.  His trademark signs are austere, yet complex compositions of geometric concrete shapes, impressive and dramatic, playing with striking voids and daylight effects.  

My favourite build from his portfolio is set in the desert landscape of New Mexico. A ranch crafted to fit naturally into its surroundings, designed to exploit both light and shade, thus creating an impressive peaceful retreat for the famous designer, Tom Ford and his horses. 

I know for a fact, that given the chance, I could be very reflective here in this perfect environment, offering respite from the usual hassles of everyday life.

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