Church of the Light – a Brilliant Page in the History

Church of the Light is the most famous one of Tadao Ando’s “Trilogy of Church” (Church of the Wind, Church of the Water, and Church of the Light). It’s located at a corner of a residential area in north Haruhigaoka, Ibaraki City, Osaka suburb, and was extended from a wooden structure church. The church has no obvious entrance but an inconspicuous doorplate only. Before entre its main body, you have to pass through a small corridor. It’s actually a rather small church, about 113 square meters, accommodating about 100 people. But when you are in the church, you will naturally feel the sacred and solemn it gives off. And you will hear the sound when step on the wood floor. Enclosed absolutely by thick hard-concrete, it creates a dark space, in which you immediately feel separated the moment you walk in. Sunlight irradiates through the hollowed cross in the wall and shapes the famed Cross of Light, which is holy, clear, pure, and shocked.

In Tadao Ando’s works, it’s absolutely a unique one. In this work, Ando gives human spirit a habitat by his space creation of abstract, respect, silence, pureness, and geometry. Within its extremely simple and abstract design, the church has no symbolic steeples as traditional but a profoundly religious inner space, which shows a beauty of silence, the same atmosphere as the Stone Garden. The layout is based on the location of the original church and the sun position. A cross-shaped incision in front wall of the church creates the Cross of Light. Meantime, inside the church are very few openings in order to perform the natural elements “light”. Special lighting effects from the cross partition wall give the believers a wonderful feeling of closing to God.

The church is beautiful inside, just like the Ronchamp. However, the Ronchamp gives you peace, but Ando’s church gives you a strong vibration. He said: “I am very concerned about equality. In the Vatican, the church is superior, and priest points higher than the audience. But I hope everyone is equal in Church of the Light. Steps are down-going, so that the audience in seat is as high as the priest, thus eliminating inequality psychology. This is exactly the essence of Church of the Light. “

The following is the rather meaningful conversation between the pastor and Ando before the completion of the church.
“There are words to say, in fact, a few days ago, at our church meeting, we decided to build a new church. I thought repeatedly about who will design this church. Picking from Japan and the world, only you, President Ando, are the right man. So please come for us to design the new church.”

Miyamoto went on to say: “We believe that as an architect, you are our best choice. But as a condition of return, we do not have a lot of money. And that’s why we come to you.”
“Really? Short of money?” Ando asked.
“Really. Short of money.”
“All right.”

The conversation between Miyamoto and Ando took place in the spring of 1987, at Tadao Ando’s Architecture Office near Umeda, Osaka, Japan. Miyamoto is a member of the Haruhigaoka church of Kyodan. His church is new and small, having about 50 members, separated from the main church in 1972. In the following 15 years from then, his members had to do activities in the poor wood church. They have been eager for a new church for too long. So they are looking for an architect.

“The new church will be located in north Haruhigaoka, near the old Expo building. It has two floors and an area of 330 square meters, divided equally by two floors. The chapel will be on the first floor, with 120 seats and a baby lounge in the rear. Second floor will be the teaching room.”

Miyamoto then proposed the design conditions. After doing some calculation on paper, Ando said: “Eh … What about 80 million yen?”
“I’m afraid not, we can afford 25 million only.”
“What! You’re kidding!” Ando asked surprisingly.
“No. Even if borrow money, 30 million is the best we can do.”
“That’s it? Well, Mr. Miyamoto, you raise the remaining 50 million.”
“No. 30 million at most.” Miyamoto confirmed.
Then Tadao Ando wrote a brilliant page in the history – Church of the Light.

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