On Terry's last morning in Japan, I borrowed his JR Pass to go out West one more time. I shouldn't have scheduled my Korea trip so soon after his departure, there was still so much to see and I didn't give myself much of a buffer. After chatting with Gary who had gone to see many of Ando's projects during his summer abroad here, I decided on Awaji Island which is home to two of Ando's projects in close proximity. A side benefit of visiting Awaji Island was the opportunity to go across the world's longest suspension bridge, the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge, also known as the Pearl Bridge.
A large complex featuring a conference center, hotel and chapel, memorial, botanical garden and an open air museum, Awaji Yumebutai was built into the man-made hills of Awaji Island. An end-result of all the excavation done to build the artificial islands in Osaka Bay, including the Kansai International Airport. The main reason for my visit was to check out the cruciform-shaped void in the ceiling of the chapel. As luck would have it (being sarcastic here), the chapel was being used on the day I visited so I wasn't allowed in and to make matters worse, they blocked off the roof area so I never even got close to the cruciform-shaped void.
All was not lost though, the rest of the site was interesting and made the visit worth it. Getting off at the turnaround and walking around the hotel to its rear, you are greeted with large pools of water with scallop shells embedded on the bottom. Ando wanted to use 1 million scallop shells to line the pools but ran into problems when he realized restaurants on the island imported the scallops sans-shells. Obviously he somehow got his 1 million shells, I didn't count them so I'm taking his word for it.
Not quite a million, but the other element presented en mass were the various flowers planted in the terracing flower gardens making up the One Hundred Flowers bed (Hyakudanen). The garden was designed as a memorial for those who passed away in the earthquake that devastated Kobe and the surrounding area in 1995.
In front of the garden was the Circular Forum. Walking within it, there are a few stops where Ando purposely framed what he thought would be interesting views. A sculpture in the garden, a view of the Chapel Bell Tower, even the sea horizon. That was all fine until you got to the Oval Forum less than a hundred yards away. Here it looked as if Ando was rehashing an idea but without any significant views to frame. I liked exploring the walkways cutting through it but the entire time, it felt like a journey without purpose.
On the other side of the Oval Forum, there were a series of intersecting geometric parts, I thought of Pei's East Building addition to the National Gallery of Art. Never been there but for some reason it popped up in my mind. Anyway, as with the Oval Forum, it all seemed to lack purpose. It was also here that I saw the first shoddy example of Ando concrete ever. A particular segment of the wall was cracking away... guess with such a large project, it was hard to really manage the quality of the concrete pours.
A short bus-ride away, deeper into the island of Awaji, was the Water Temple. When i got dropped off, I wandered for a bit assuming the Water Temple was close to the beach. It wasn't until I saw some signs above the intersection that I realized the road I was suppose to take was the small path cutting through cheaply built greenhouses and small farm areas perpendicular to the main road (it wasn't pretty). Following the winding road up a small hill, I walked up a set of small stairs, in between a classic looking temple and it's adjacent cemetary before finding a marker pointing left. I followed a small path behind the first temple I passed and came across the wall that separated the Water Temple and the entry path.
The Water Temple is actually situated underground so when you get to the structure, it's just a large shallow pool that greets you. In contrast to the clear blue water at Awaji Yumebutai, the water that sat in these shallow pools were of a murky green consistency. Definitely wouldn't have enjoyed taking a dip in it.
The entrance bisected the pool of water, leading you down a set of stairs. At the bottom, the left led you to the sanctuary. On the right are the restrooms and private spaces for the monks. While Awaji Yumebutai had scale, the Water Temple had the more interesting formwork. The interior circular hallway of the Water Temple had these nice arc ceilings (see photos). Lighting wasn't the greatest for observation but it certainly set the mood. The inner sanctuary was very simple and similar to any of the other shrines and prayer areas of traditional temples.
Funny story, when I was leaving, three Japanese tourists came around and I asked them to help me take a photograph. Somehow they thought I was trying to take photos with them which... was definitely not what I wanted. But I went along with it and when that was over kicked the other two ladies out of the shot and asked the photographer to take another one. Weird... something similar would happen in the near future (see the DMZ entry, coming soon).
Galinksy has some pretty good directions so check here for the Awaji Yumebutai directions and here for the Water Temple directions. There's also some more information on Ando's projects in this great blog post covering one of his lectures.