Nature as architecture
A garden lies on the edge between the natural and the man-made. Those objects which man has made continually suffer nature’s incessant erosion, pressed constantly to return to chaos. Humans, for their part, strive to check the erosion nature inflicts; thence originates our endless rivalry. The result of the conflict between nature and human agency is a unique presence; this, I believe, is the garden. This water garden designed by architect Junya Ishigami manifests this in an exceedingly modern context.
Art Biotop is a lodging complex designed with an awareness of experiencing creativity while surrounded by nature. Nasu Yokozawa, located in the center of Japan’s main island of Honshu, is a satoyama* rich with thick flora that grow in the archipelago from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south. On this site, rich with abundant streams, were planned a premium villa and restaurant. This project occasioned the design and installation of a new garden in order to save, through relocation, the 318 trees that had been fated to be felled for its construction.
The site of the present-day water garden was originally forest, later opened up for the expansion of paddy agriculture, and most recently apparently used as pasture. The revival of the inlet/outlet mechanism that, utilizing the incline, once supplied irrigation to the paddies by drawing water from the Kami Kuro river flowing alongside the forest, allows for water to be supplied to all 160 of the garden’s small ponds. First, water is pumped through the eight upper ponds, then it is circulated precisely to the rest without spilling over, eventually flowing back to the lower reaches of the same river.
These relocated trees are konara oak or Japanese beech (Quercus serrata and Fagus crenata), deciduous trees that suffer from root rot and decay if planted near water. Therefore, architect Ishigami devised a method to make sure water doesn’t permeate the root area, by covering the bases of all 160 ponds with waterproof tarps and installing subterranean steel frames to support the trees; This water garden is high-tech fabrication architecture. Apparently the overall arrangement and individual placement of the trees follows a model based on precise evaluation of each one.
The water garden, which reflects the shapes of the trees, is both architecture, and simultaneously, living nature, in which a newborn ecosystem begins to breathe. Birdsong fills the garden while innumerable tadpoles swim in the ponds and frogs shelter in the grass. This is a pleasure we can experience only in following the stepping stone path, and appreciating the water garden from a comfortable stone seat with a backrest. The layout of the stones is clearly designed, but nature permeates this human wisdom, thus further completing the water garden.
*satoyama, a practical distinction in Japan: the border between foothills and arable land, usually close to a rural village.