‘You need courage to make good architecture,” says Tadao Ando. He should know. The self-taught architect — arguably Japan’s most famous — has a current client list that includes the city of Abu Dhabi (he’s building a maritime museum), French businessman Francoise Pinault (he renovated Palazzo Grassi and is now working on the Punta della Dogana on the Grand Canal in Venice), soccer star Hidetoshi Nakata (an apartment in New York) and rock band U2’s Bono (a house in Dublin).

An exhibition at Gallery Ma, “Challenges — Faithful to the Basis,” examines the origins of Ando’s practice. So fastidious is the show that it includes a full-scale model of Ando’s first masterpiece, the Row House in Sumiyoshi, which was built in his native Osaka in 1976. That means you can actually walk around inside — and in the process you can appreciate just how “courageous” a building it is.

Behind an imposing concrete exterior are four rooms built on two levels around a central open courtyard. The only problem is that to go from one room to another, you have to walk the gauntlet of the open courtyard — with an umbrella if it’s raining.

Ando is now working with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on what the Olympics should look like in Tokyo if the city were to win them in 2016.

If “courage” is one of International Olympic Committee’s criteria, it may be in the bag.

Tadao Ando “Challenges — Faithful to the Basis” is at Gallery Ma, near Nogizaka Station, until Dec. 20. Admission is free. www.toto.co.jp/gallerma/

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.