In 2010 the architect Tadao Ando and artist Olafur Elisasson were commissioned by Takeo Oboyashi to design and create a guesthouse and gallery. Tadao Ando, who luckily didn’t have any formal training as an architect, designed the space and Olafur Elisasson created the metallic, geometric tiles that make a stunning pattern throughout the building’s exterior surface.
This article will address this partnership and its use of platinum, which we generally associate in western culture with the jewellery industry, not architecture and the building industry.
Platinum is the heaviest precious metal with more than 80 per cent of South African platinum stocks. As it is a hard metal it makes it suitable for a wedding or engagement ring because it does not rust as easily as white gold, and once polished it shines brilliantly, making it an obvious surface for the tiled walls. The light reflects in the tiny courtyard setting, gleaming but still able to withstand visitors brushing against its surface or hitting multiple tile contours. Since platinum has a corrosion resistance, when exposed to air or water, it does not tarnish or oxidize, meaning it can last in an outer space.
The finished design combines a minimalist style, using geometric shapes and repetition in a large-scale pattern formation. There are 6,800 hexagonal platinum tiles on the walls of the courtyard area costing a rumored £400,000.00. The use of hexagonal tiles is inspired by Eliasson ‘s earlier project called ‘Quasi Bricks’ which consisted of a wall made of multiple mirror tiles, titled to reflect the light in different directions, and shining brightly like a diamond.
The courtyard is a dynamic space, where the platinum-coated ceramic tiles alter the atmosphere depending on the light for ever. When the sun shines brilliantly, the room becomes illuminated, while the room becomes a monochromatic grey in the dark atmosphere, reflecting the clear blue sky from above.
When I see the photographs of this mystical space, I am reminded of the tops of earrings sitting in a row within my Pearl jewelry box of Great Aunts, carefully laid out, organized in pairs, some titling to one side, some titling to the other side. Each glistening as the sun shines over the different surfaces from the bedroom window. I can’t help but feel like a huge jewelry box, so large that you can walk through it, amid the polished jewelry metals, with the colors mirrored in the surrounding atmosphere and the sparkling surface imitating the precious gems and diamonds.
While highly unusual and could probably be seen as Oboyashi’s self-indulgent commission, the room is without doubt striking and even magical.
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