Cultural Village Portland Japanese Garden | The Plan
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Cultural Village Portland Japanese Garden

Refined and discreet

Kengo Kuma and Associates

Kengo Kuma’s architecture is noteworthy for its attention to natural phenomena - in particular, light - and its geometric coordination of multiple building components. His best work, as at the Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon, USA, captures views of sky and plants and satellite architectural elements with grace and wit. To assist this spatial elegance, the architect attends to such details as paving slabs and ceiling soffits, fenestration and sliding screens as an exquisite kit-of-parts, components that are refined in-and-of themselves and, most characteristic of Kuma’s modus operandi, in the many ways they are arranged to make a complete and integrated tectonic ensemble. The Portland Japanese Garden was established in the aftermath of World War Two as a living symbol of constructive collaboration between Japan and the United States. The Garden inhabits a hilly and forested site, part of a natural amenity of great intrinsic beauty and civic benefit close to the flat, gridded layout of downtown Portland. The narrow public road rises and curves between flanks of sun-dappled forest. Then we encounter a modestly-scaled parking lot and the first new structure, the ticket pavilion for the Garden. It immediately sets the palette and tone of Kuma’s intervention with its almost blade-like, low pitched roofs and clever orthogonal planning immediately adjacent to an ornamental pool. Ahead of us is a traditional Japanese gate or portal. It sits at the base of a small valley, with wooded slopes to either side. We hear the gurgling and splash of water and naturally follow the path upstream into the trees. The path switches back-and-forth as it ascends. Elegant stones underfoot lead to a slender bridge with skinny balustrades. On a warm summer’s day, splashes of sunlight mix with light falling on the rushing brook below the soaring canopy of firs and cedars. Then we glimpse the almost floating eaves and soffits of the architectural intervention above,...

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