PARIS • Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando's love affair with France started in the 1960s and Paris is now returning his affections.
The 77-year-old recalled that, in 1965, he took the Trans-Siberian Express to see a landmark of modernism outside Paris, with hopes of meeting the man who designed it.
"I made my way towards France in the hope that I could see the Villa Savoye and meet Le Corbusier in person."
The meeting did not happen. "Only after returning home several months later did I learn that Le Corbusier had died a few weeks before my arrival," Ando said.
Though disappointed, his love affair with France continued.
The feeling is now mutual. Last week, the Centre Pompidou in Paris debuted Tadao Ando: The Challenge, a major retrospective covering his five decades of work. The event runs through Dec 31.
Just two days after The Challenge opened, further proof of his relationship with France was on display in Chicago. Ando designed an exhibition space there and the show - Ando And Le Corbusier: Masters Of Architecture - is on view until Dec 15.
Ando has worked most often in Japan and relatively rarely in the United States.
But he has designed a handful of significant American art spaces, including the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St Louis and an addition to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
For the first time, New Yorkers can see his work in their city too. His only standalone residential project outside Asia, the seven-storey condominium 152 Elizabeth in Manhattan, was completed this year.
Self-taught in architecture and a boxer in his youth, he has forged a quirky path that does not look like that of any other "starchitect". He has become world renowned for buildings that are deeply influenced by modernism, as demonstrated by his early interest in Le Corbusier.
They are also quite accessible to the public, with the serene spell they cast in concrete.
"There are two Andos," said Mr Frederic Migayrou, the Pompidou curator who organised The Challenge. "There is the self-made man who travelled to Europe. But he's also an intellectual who was very close to the avant-garde movements of the 1960s."