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A multi-purpose venue is wrapped by living trees as an addition to open-air theatre in Japan

Japan Architecture News - Jul 20, 2020 - 11:45 5719 views

A multi-purpose venue has been wrapped by living trees so that the venue can be configured in different ways to support an open-air theatre in Kurobe, Japan.

The venue, designed by Japanese architecture firm APL Design Workshop, was built to support the existing amphitheatre at Maezawa Garden House in 1989 by the same studio.

Maezawa Garden House was designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate Fumihiko Maki and was completed in 1982 for YKK, a global Japanese company manufacturing zippers and other fastening devices as well as architectural products.

APL Design Workshop built this outdoor theatre for an international drama festival called "Theater Olympic 2019," which was held in Toga and Kurobe in Japan as well as Saint Petersburg in Russia.

For facilitating this international event, several supporting facilities were requested. A foyer design for guests was one of the facilities that need to be implemented at site. The studio then designed a foyer, called White Flower Arbor, to support various activities among a small jungle.

"Kurobe City, a small city facing the Japan Sea, has a vast natural garden made up of undulating lawn topography with trees," said APL Design Workshop.

The "Open Air Theater" is located in the corner of the garden and it is integrated into the landscape design.

"It consists of gentle lawn slope that was here prior to our commitment, a circular mound with diameter of X m and a semicircular bank with steps made of timber ties for railroad. Lawn slope and bank are facing each other across the circular mound."

The architects designed a foyer that allows different types of combinations for theatrical configurations. The first configuration is to use the semicircular bank for the seating of audiences and the circular mound and the lawn slope for the stage. It can accommodate about 300 audiences.

A very deep and vast lawn stage with rising section may create very dynamic and unique effect. The second one is to use the bank and the mound for the stage and the lawn slope for the seating of audiences.

The third one is to use only the circular mound for the stage and the rest for the audiences. The last configuration is what they call vine-yard type.

It is also big accommodation and good for music performance. The last two configurations can accommodate more than one thousand of audiences.

The foyer was designed as a garden arbor, whose roof is supported by 17 living trees - oaks and cedars - and steel pillars. It will be used as a rest place for the strollers around the garden in an ordinary occasion.

"To be precise, in terms of structural engineering, this structure is planned on a formula in which the vertical load on the roof is supported by 26 pillars that include the 17 living trees and 9 steel pipes, and the lateral earthquake load is resisted only by the steel pillars," added the office.

"The diameter of the tree trunks (8cm) is not enough to support the maximum snow depth in this district (1500cm). At the beginning of this project, the gazebo was to be used only for this event this year, but people wanted to keep it to use again, and it will be used for many years."

"Louis Khan once talked "probably began with a man under a tree, and around him the listeners to the words of his mind." A tree can create a place for meeting anywhere in the world," continued the studio.

The wildness of a tree may also endow a place with spirit. Those who spend some time in White Flower Arbor will experience the true sense of "living together with nature," passed down from ancient times.

Their expressions will soften. As this gazebo sits on the foot of a slope covered by a forest – almost like a Japanese Shinto shrine – its entity sinking into the forest looks like a part of nature from the outside, while on the inside, its chilly air and darkness bring the people in the gazebo to a world of myth.

Site plan

Sketched site plan


Perspective drawing

Project facts

Project name: White Flower Arbor

Architects: APL Design Workshop

Location: Kurobe, Japan

Size: 170m2

Date: 2019

All images © KITAJIMA Toshiharu/ Archi Photo

All drawings © APL Design Workshop

> via APL Design Workshop

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