Architect Adds Eco-Friendly “Cultural Village” to Portland’s Japanese Garden
Portland’s Japanese Garden was first designed back in 1963. It has also been declared as “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan” by Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan. After three whole years of construction, the 9.1-acre Japanese garden has been expanded by another 3.4 acres, with the help of Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma. In close collaboration with the garden’s curator, Sadafumi Uchiyama, Kuma was also able to design a new, so-called, Cultural Village – which is comprised of three green-roofed buildings.
This cultural village is closely inspired by the traditional Japanese Monzenmachi—a gate-front town surrounded by sacred temples. These three structures were designed in such a way so as to surround the Tateuchi courtyard and to make nature become its focal point of interest.
In Kuma’s words, he “aimed for a cultural facility like a village, suitable for a human city integrated with nature.”
The largest of the three buildings is the Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center. This is actually a library, art gallery, classroom and gift shop, all in one, offering visitors a chance to fully immerse themselves into the experience of the Japanese garden; its culture and traditions. The second structure is a garden house, which offers visitors horticulture workshops. The third and final building is a hillside cafe – providing visitors with an extra place to relax in a typical Japanese fashion – while offering a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.
Keeping an environmentally conscious mindset, Kuma and Uchiyama have introduced several hundred new plants. The roofs of the building are also capable of absorbing rainwater, minimizing the pressure on the city’s sewage system. A stone creek collects this water and stores it into a holding tank, which is then slowly released into the sewer. What’s really eco-friendly here is the fact that the entire cultural village is heated by 24 geothermal wells, dug some 300 feet below ground – which boosts its energy efficiency and reduces the overall cost and its environmental impact.