Ando stands in front of the boat he took from Yokohama to Nakhodka, Russia in 1965.

Q. Why did you decide to set out on this journey in 1965 when you were twenty-four years old?

A. It all started from my desire to see first-hand European architecture, which seemed so different from the buildings of the world I lived in. And more than anything else, I greatly admired the works of Le Corbusier. Just at that time, the restrictions on traveling to different parts of the world had finally been lifted. Also, since I had no other choice but to study architecture on my own in Japan, I could only get a hold of a very limited amount of information. So you can say that I took this trip because I wanted to learn much more about architecture. That time, I was fortunate enough to come across a book of Le Corbusier's collected works in a used bookstore in Osaka. I would find the time to look through this book again and again and to trace over the careful use of space in his blueprints and drawings. At the same time, I became very interested in Le Corbusier as a person, and I was truly impressed by the fact that he taught himself ways to create a new world. As I became able to copy every drawing in the Le Corbusier book by heart, I could not help thinking, "I want to see these works with my own eyes. I want to meet Le Corbusier in person." So then, I set off on my grand tour.

Q. What did you see during your one-year journey?

A. First, I stood on the deck of the boat I took from Yokohama to Nakhodka, Russia and looked out at the horizon of the Pacific Ocean, and then, while traveling to Moscow on the Siberian Railway, I looked out the train window at the flat plains that seemed to stretch endlessly into the distance. These sights had a great impact on me. They helped me to gain a true sense of the world's vastness and the smallness of my own existence. In this respect, I must say it is a bit of a shame that these days travel has gotten so convenient that you can just get on an airplane and move from city to city in half a day. I began my walking tours of European architecture in Scandinavia. In Finland, I saw the works of Alvar Aalto. In France, I looked at the works of Le Corbusier, and in Spain, I saw the architecture of Antonio Gaudi. And then, I had the chance to see classical Italian buildings --- the source of Western architecture. Seeing Aalto works first-hand left an especially strong impression on me. I will never forget the excitement I felt standing in the large spaces of Rautatalo (iron house). Yet this trip was a very difficult time in my life.

Q. Why was it a difficult time for you?

A. I went on this trip to learn more about architecture, not to sight see. Because I set off on this journey without knowing very much about architecture, it took much physical strength for me to continue to walk around and concentrate on seeing different things. I also had to make sure I understood what I saw. At any rate, I needed to find the answer to the question, "What is so attractive about the architecture I see here?" before I could return home to Japan. Of course, I had neither teachers to guide me nor friends to talk to about this. I was left to continually ponder this architecture on my own. Since I never had the chance to attend university, even from the time I opened my own firm and to the present, this situation has not changed.

Q. And so has this spiritual journey continued?

A. Indeed, traveling to me is a spiritual journey because whenever I visit a place, I always take time to contemplate its history and culture. When I come across a new world, I ponder its meaning and look for answers to things I do not understand, I am always thinking about the next new things I will see. To me, traveling is like going to school. For example, when I look at architecture, I constantly have conversations with myself and ask myself, "If I were the architect, how would I make these structures?" In this way, I began my career as an architect, and, even in my work now, I continue to search for answers to questions like these. Thinking of architecture by myself can be a journey for me. I guess you can say that architecture is a journey. I say this because the things an architect sees inspire him to constantly think, and his search to understand what he sees takes him far and wide. In the process, he creates.

. photo_Tadao Ando
. translation_Alisa Freedman, Junko Kawakami