BY BRIAN LIBBY
One of the world's most respected architects is designing a project for Portland, a major coup for a city that, even with its substantial array of local talent, has in the past lacked buildings by first-rate designers from outside our environs.
The Portland Japanese Garden and its upcoming expansion make an ideal project for Kengo Kuma, the Japanese architect renowned for designs such as the Suntori Museum of Art in Tokyo, the diamond-like Tiffany flagship store in Ginza, Tokyo, and the Bamboo House beside the Great Wall of China. Kuma has been entrusted with redesigning what is arguably the most prestigious building in Japan, the Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza, Tokyo which since 1889 has been a landmark known around the world.
The expansion of the Japanese Garden, the largest such garden outside of Japan, will includeconstruction of new garden spaces, a cultural and education center, gift store and a tea house that will serve the public. But first, the Garden will have to turn its attention to a capital campaign to fund the expansion. Having Kuma on board should help.
“It is a real coup for Portland that such a renowned architect has chosen the Portland Japanese Garden as his first public North American project," said Chase Rynd, president and executive director of the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. "Kengo Kuma’s leadership in the expansion will make the Garden even more of a national treasure.”
As Jeff Jahn mentioned in his Port blog post, this is also a significant commission for Kuma, being his first in North America. And given how Portland's reputation has grown internationally in the past decade - for its livibility, its vibrant youthful culture, and landmark projects like the Aerial Tram or Wieden + Kennedy building - this kind of commission now means more to renowned architects like Kuma.
“I am honored and really excited about working with...the people at the Portland Japanese Garden," Kuma said in a statement. "They have done significant work in curating and maintaining the Garden, which is truly fantastic. Its careful growth is a very important cultural effort not only for Portland but also for the US and Japan. This is to be our first public project in North America, and I am very happy that the project carries with it tremendous importance—not just for me but for others as well. I look forward to helping the Portland Japanese Garden take shape in its next steps, and hope to contribute something of lasting beauty and value to the city of Portland.”
In 2007 the Portland Japanese Garden began the process of creating a master site plan designed to preserve and enhance the tranquility of the existing Garden, respond to increased visitor numbers, and take advantage of opportunities in the areas of education, environmental sustainability, revenue generation through visitor amenities, and enhancing visitor and member services. In December 2010, the Garden welcomed Mr. Kuma as an architect candidate for this project.
Kuma’s vision for the Garden, as presented to the Architect Selection Committee, was to build on the contributions of original Garden designer Takuma Tono as well as the past Garden directors, while setting forth a clear path for the Garden’s future. The concepts were a seamless expression of contemporary elements solidly rooted in the fundamentals of traditional Japanese architectural design.