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Ando standing in front of the Pantheon, which is bustling with tourists. Thirty-seven years ago, here in Rome, the young Ando decided to become an architect. Since then, he has visited the Pantheon many times.

Q. What were your thoughts on visiting the Pantheon in Rome?

A. Almost every time I visit Rome, I come to see the Pantheon. How many times have I stood beneath that incredible light? As always, a few workers were continuing with restoration work at a relaxed pace. This building, constructed around the beginning of the second century, has passed down through history, speaking unceasingly to the human heart. Anyone who has studied architecture will probably experience this. Whenever I visit this space --- on this occasion too --- I recall the raw passion of my early years, when I had just entered the field of architecture.
 When I thought about making my first trip to Europe, I made a list of buildings to visit, noting everything that caught my attention from classical Western architecture to Modern and contemporary buildings. The Pantheon was at the top of the list. Even a young man with no knowledge --- such as I was at that time --- thought that way. This indicates the special place that the Pantheon occupies in the domain of architecture.

Q. What is it about the Pantheon that makes it so appealing?

A. The first thing that everyone remarks on about the Pantheon, which contains a complete sphere of space 43 meters in diameter, is its simplicity. In other words, in the entire history of architecture it's the building with the most perfect proportions, that is, the most perfect architectural form. Also, what is appealing is the dramatic light. It pours in from the round skylight nine meters across, cut out of the top of the dome.
 The history of Western architecture in masonry can be seen as the history of the challenge to create volume in interior space, and to create large openings in walls to introduce light effectively. In this respect, I think of the Pantheon as the starting point and, at the same time, as the high point of the history of the creation of space. However, apart from its architectural form and the dynamic power of the light that enters it, there is something about the Pantheon that could never be grasped through visual media such as photographs or videos, but only by visiting the place; the sublime quality of sound reverberating across the space. During one of my visits, when I was standing under that light in rapt amazement, a procession of believers came in following a priest --- probably for a mass --- and started to sing a hymn. I'll never forget the emotional power of hearing those strong, vibrant voices reverberating around the space. Through this experience, something beyond that which is visible to the eye was deeply etched into my mind. Architectural space is a phenomenon we take in not only visually but through all our senses, that is, through our whole bodies. The Pantheon made me recognize this truth, and for me, this fact alone makes the building worth visiting.

Q. Why do architects go to Italy?

A. In seventeenth and eighteenth century England, there was a custom known as the "Grand Tour," in which young aristocrats would travel around Europe for several years to cultivate themselves. This custom seems to have become an established part of the culture, not just in England but throughout European society at that time. Also, a literary genre developed around the subject of these journeys. In particular, a number of writings on traveling in Italy were produced. My favorite is Italienische Reise, written by Goethe in eighteenth-century Germany. It seems fresh every time I read it. Having been impressed by Goethe's writing, Chuji Hirayama, a Japanese photographer, followed the same route.
 Naturally, architects of every era have traveled to Italy --- from Le Corbusier's "Le Voyage d'Orient" to the Grand Tour Louis Kahn took in his later years. Why Italy? Regarding this, consider Kahn's words on Rome: "I firmly realize that the architecture in Italy will remain as the inspirational source of the works of the future." In addition to the sheer geographical expanse of the Etruscan, Roman, and Renaissance civilizations, the respective historic periods of the various city-states have been folded over each other to form densely layered urban environments. I think people go to Italy to search for a key to that which is universal and eternal.

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