1990 the Benesse Corporation, a Japanese publisher, partnered with architect Tadao Ando to create Benesse Art Site Naoshima, a series of spectacular contemporary art museums designed around the theme of "Nature and Art." It is located in Naoshima, a small fishing island off the southern cost of the Seta Inland sea .
Ando, now in his late fifties and garlanded with prizes, is a self-taught architect who was once a professional boxer, and still has a broken nose to prove it. This surreal career shift would surely be impossible in the West. In the 1970s and 1980s, he evolved a way of working that has produced some of the simplest and most lyrical buildings in the world today - especially houses, churches, temples, museums and art galleries. All Ando buildings, irrespective of their function, are temples of one kind or another: consider the 1995 Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, sunk into its National Park setting, where sky and water are mirrored through a central, cloister-like, oval courtyard. He does not deny the charge. "I believe it is important that architecture should be a space where you feel spiritually empowered. To have particular 'styles' is somehow missing the point. There is a universality to the human spirit that is constant, that should run through all that."