Hill of the Buddha by Tadao Ando

This Buddha statue is known as the symbol of Makomanai Takino Cemetery. The recently created Hill of the Buddha, with the Atama Daibutsu at the center for worship, was created by world-famous architect Tadao Ando. The request to Ando was to design something that would give the 14 meter high image of Buddha more visitors. He decided to cover it up.

Ando himself explains initial conception as follows. The cemetery is and on flat ground and a 14 meter-high Buddha statue was installed, molded into a refined stone. The statue has been there for 15 years, but people were more afraid of it than reverence for it and he felt uncomfortable in its presence. So the architect was instructed to find a way to make the perception of the Buddha more serene.

The idea was to cover the Buddha below the head with a hill of lavender plants. The team called the idea the Atama Daibutsu (The Buddha’s Head). Embedded under the hill are a 40 meter tunnel and a rotunda embracing the statue. The design intention was to create a vivid spatial sequence, beginning with the long approach through the tunnel in order to heighten anticipation of the statue, which is invisible from the outside. When the hall is reached, visitors look up at the Buddha, whose head is encircled by a halo of sky at the end of the tunnel.

The idea of ​​Ando respects the cosmic dimension of the Buddha, involving the great statue in a landscaped, indeed geographic dimension, and hiding it almost entirely under a gigantic mound of land. 150000 lavender plants are planted in a circular fashion along the roof of the structure, that turn fresh green in spring, pale purple in summer and silky white with snow in winter. As you approach, the head of a large Buddha statue becomes visible, but then disappears again, only to reveal itself once you’ve travelled through the tunnel.

The Atama Daibutsu stands in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape in all seasons. Thus has a new symbol of the cemetery been established.