Church of the Light
Tadao Ando
Ibaraki, Osaka, 1988

Chapel of St. Ignatius


Church of the Light

All Saints Margaret Street

Tokyo Church of Christ

Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light is located in Ibaraki, a residential neighbourhood 25 kilometers north-northeast of Osaka.  The building can be described simply as a bare concrete box with a wall cutting through it at a 15 degree angle.  The heavy cast-in-place walls help separate the religious experience inside the small 113 square meter chapel from the outside world.  The delineation between sacred and profane is important on this site, which does not permit much distance between two streets and the church itself. 

The experience starts with the worshipper making his way past the existing minister’s house, to the back of the concrete church.  The intersecting walls create an entry forecourt, forcing the visitor to take an S-turn to enter.  Inside, the space is dominated by the glowing cross at the end of the nave.  The bare concrete walls have no decorations that would mitigate the experience.  The starkness creates an isolated, ascetic feeling inside the church.  The interior is perhaps claustrophobic, with views to the outside only available through the 20 cm gap in the concrete wall that is the cross.  The dominance of the cross is paramount in the church, requiring the pastor to preach from one side, which took some convincing on Ando’s part.

Ando's Church of the Light was a very low-budget affair, where the starkness of the interior was a necessity, and not so much an aesthetic choice.  The contractor donated the construction of the roof when funds ran out and the church pews are made of wood salvaged from the concrete formwork.  Yet the simplicity of the church is its beauty — a highly ordered, extremely focussed space only steps away from the workaday residential neighbourhood outside. 


Side panel: Edwin Heathcote, Church Builders, (Chichester: Academy Editions, 1997), p. 134.
Figure 1: Phillip Drew, Church on the Water, Church of the Light: Tadao Ando, (London: Phaidon, 1996), p. 56.
Figure 2: Edwin Heathcote, Church Builders, (Chichester: Academy Editions, 1997), p. 135.
Figure 3:Phillip Drew, Church on the Water, Church of the Light: Tadao Ando, (London: Phaidon, 1996), p. 45.

Page by: Michelle Chan, M.Arch.I (M1), McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Last modified: February 23, 2000