Treasuring History: Photographs of Tadao Ando’s First European Villa Restoration
Inducing a surreal physical experience through minimal maneuvers, buildings with smooth concrete panels and simple geometric volumes instinctively hint at the work of Japanese architect Tadao Ando. At an ongoing exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, photographs of the headquarters of Fabrica, Ando’s first European commission in 1992, are showcased. Located near the city of Treviso, the building was an old villa restored to become a thriving creative research center.
Villa Pastega Manera, built on an area of 51,000 square meters, went through a rigorous study of traditional construction techniques and material sampling to commence the redesign. The photographs feature the harmonious integration between the historical structure and seamless renovations.
Surrounding an elliptical porticoed square, the various programs such as the laboratories, offices, and the helicoidal library can be accessed by a broad staircase. Originally porticoed extensions of the Veneto villa, the “barchessa” wings of the building are repurposed as laboratories and an auditorium while utilizing the same materials and existing Palladian-style construction techniques. A line of monolithic twelve-meter high columns stands opposite the structure, emphasizing the trope of the traditional villa.
To preserve the dichotomy between the memory of the seventeenth-century villa and the necessity of the contemporary laboratories and offices, Ando planned most of the new installation ten meters below the natural ground level. A visual dance, the rectilinear building intersects with the ellipse’s curve and creates paths for the series of free-standing columns leading to the barchessa. These views are accentuated through the sunken piazza with its floor-to-ceiling windows that are also illuminated from above.
People involved in building should have a vision of the overall plan, not just of their individual job, if the best results are to be achieved. When I saw the people working on the Fabrica construction site I was highly stimulated; their passion for “building” in the broadest sense of the word, particularly impressed me. When I talked to them I realized that they had understood my, and the client’s, vision and that they could visualize both the overall project and the role of each individual. They are proud of what they build, therefore they put passion into their work. -Tadao Ando
By respecting the character of the existing structure, Ando highlights the delicate malleability of history. The new additions do not have to be contrasting nor identical, but rather respond to the prior history in a unique manner and accentuate the beauty of the landscape.