The hill of the Buddha – Tadao Ando
The hill of the Buddha – Tadao Ando

Hill of the Buddha is a Buddhist shrine designed by architect Tadao Ando in makomanai Takino Cemetery in Sapporo, Japan. Since its establishment in 1982, the cemetery is well known for the row of moai megaliths. Although it is a Buddhist shrine, the statue or the place is not associated with the religion. Furthermore, with every step revealing a tiny portion of the figure, it plays on the aspect of mystery. Thus, mounds of lavender fields surround the shrine, with only the head visible from the entrance.

The hill of the Buddha – Tadao Ando
isometric view of The Hill of the Buddha
concept of The hill of the Buddha

Context of The hill of the buddha

Accessible from the main road, the forty-two maoi heads are visible from the entrance. On the other side of the main road is the taking suzerain hillside park, another significant landmark in Sapporo. Although not well developed back then, the 180 hectares site indicated scope for development opportunities in Sapporo. To the right side of the sculptures, reveal a small portion of the buddha statue over the lavender fields. Moreover, it takes about twenty minutes to reach makomanai station with free shuttle services, attracting more tourists to the cemetery.

The hill of the Buddha – Tadao Ando
site context of The hill of the Buddha
layout of The hill of the Buddha

Tadao Ando and Minimalism

Well known as a critical regionalist, Tadao Ando’s works reflected sensitivity towards nature and light while understanding the context of Japan. His buildings, especially the hill of the buddha, appear to be in constant motion through the play of light, making them seem alive through simple elements. For instance, the light through the opening above the sculpture moves with the course of the day. Furthermore, the weather directly influences the appearance of the building, like changing moods. Through clean lines and symmetry, the simplicity of the shrine makes it a more spiritual experience.

The hill of the Buddha – Tadao Ando
Tadao ando and minimalism
The hill of the Buddha

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Spirituality Without Religion at The hill of the buddha

The Buddhist shrine gives more importance to the feeling of spirituality than ritualistic norms. The purpose was to bring more value to the buddha statue as means of functionality through rituals that associate with more than one faith. Thus, providing a reflective pool at the entrance encourages visitors to walk around the pool, bringing spirituality through relatable rituals. Other rituals include lighting incense sticks, cleansing hands in water, and offering lavender flowers to buddha. The layout of spaces and the large scale of the site are also synonymous with sacral architecture that evokes spirituality.

The hill of the Buddha – Tadao Ando
spirituality without region

Aspect Of Mystery

The element of mystery is evident in every nook of the shrine since it is an essential aspect of a spiritual building. The recurring arrangement from closed tunnels to open areas is unpredictable, thus evoking curiosity in the visitors. The spaces bring out a simple storyline through functional spaces without complicating its course. Moreover, with only the head of buddha initially revealed, every step closer to the statue exposes the lower body while the head is barely visible. Such an aspect tricks the eyes simply by mapping the spaces as poetry and organically. Furthermore, it is not possible to view the entire figure of buddha without tilting the head or from afar.

The hill of the Buddha

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The Significance Of Lavender at The hill of the buddha

The rings of the lavender garden surrounding the buddha statue are the most striking aspect of the site. With over 150,000 planted, it blooms between late spring to early summer, adding color and fragrance that soothes the mind. Although it doesn’t entertain visitors during the new year season, snow covers most of the shrine during winter, including the lavender garden. Thus, the lavender blooms for a brief period, bringing contemplation while also playing a vital role in a couple of rituals. Moreover, the smell of lavender fills the entire garden, bringing a sense of purity into the shrine.

The hill of the Buddha – Tadao Ando
lavender at The hill of the Buddha

Material And Texture

Like most of Tadao Ando’s projects, the structure follows exposed concrete with a grey monotone palette. The tone not only matches that of the statue but also blends with the white snow in winter. The element of water and the landscape surrounding the shrine breaks the monotony of concrete slabs and minimalism. Thus, the building seems to have grown out from the hill rather than stand out as a separate entity. Moreover, the tunnel towards the shrine is made of concrete vaults, conveying the renaissance touch of old cathedrals.

the material at The hill of the Buddha

The Play Of Light at The hill of the buddha

Light is one of the most significant specialties, whose essence brings dynamism within. The contrast between the dark tunnel, the heavenly light befalling upon buddha, the sparkling glow of reflected light on the pond, and so on are a few to be named. Furthermore, the light also plays a role in defining the structure beyond its materiality and three-dimensional nature to a manifestation of the divine celestial being. Quoting the words of the architect himself, “I do not believe architecture has to speak too much. It should remain silent and let nature in the guise of sunlight and wind.”

The hill of the Buddha – Tadao Ando
play of light at The hill of the Buddha


The hill of the buddha is the perfect embodiment of ascetic and spiritual architecture expressed by Tadao Ando. Although a self-taught architect, he deeply understood the need and meaning behind architecture while understanding the context of his country beyond the traditional elements.

The sleek and simplistic approach to signify the metaphysical attribute of divinity through poetic architecture is a tremendous achievement.

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