in 2014, news broke that japanese architect kengo kuma would expand the japanese garden in portland with a scenic cultural village. three years on, the project is nearing completion with an opening date of april 2, 2017. the public space in oregon is widely considered the most authentic japanese garden outside of japan and, with the completion of kuma’s vision, will provide additional space to accommodate its rapid visitor growth, while enhancing its aim of immersing visitors in traditional japanese arts and culture.

kengo kuma portland japanese garden designboom
the original rendering of the scheme by kengo kuma and associates
construction images © bruce foster



the $33.5m USD cultural village is kengo kuma‘s first public commission in the united states. the architect’s appreciation and focus on merging traditional japanese design principles with contemporary forms is evident throughout the construction and the planning of the scheme. the collaborative project saw kuma working with the japanese garden’s curator, third generation master garden craftsman sadafumi uchiyama.

kengo kuma portland japanese garden designboom
the café under construction



‘given its proximity to nature, portland is unlike any place in the world. this new cultural village serves as a connector of the stunning oregon landscape, japanese arts and a subtle gradation to architecture,’ said kuma. ‘working with the garden has influenced my approach to future projects, especially integrating green and wood. for example, the national stadium in tokyo will be rich in vegetation, evoking a feeling of forest in the city.’

kengo kuma portland japanese garden designboom
the design team reused and optimized existing land



with this expansion, kuma and uchiyama reused and optimized existing land – adding 3.4 acres of usable space to the 9.1 acre property – to create an immersive, fluid journey from beginning to end. to welcome visitors, the entrance to the garden at washington park features a water garden with cascading ponds, introducing the transition from city to tranquility. to protect the peaceful environment, the village emulates japan’s monzenmachi, the gate-front towns that surround sacred shrines and temples.

the site cantilevers over the hillside at the east side of the village



using a combination of locally sourced materials and japanese craftsmanship, the village’s design is influenced by a cross-cultural exchange of expertise. the buildings are topped with a green roof and its unique location cantilevers over the hillside to provide scenic views of the portland’s forested landscape.

workers installing the green roof to one of the buildings



the tateuchi courtyard used as a gathering space for seasonal activities, performances and demonstrations to educate and enrich the visitor experience. each new LEED-certified structure exists harmoniously with nature and serves as a mere frame from which to view its exquisite beauty, leaving the garden as the centerpiece. there will be a learning center with new gallery spaces, a multi-purpose classroom, the garden gift store and the vollum library, a comprehensive resource on japanese gardening and related arts.

with this expansion, kuma and uchiyama reused and optimized existing land



at the heart of the village, visitors will find an authentic, intimate umami café which is constructed using port orford cedar and tyvek, emulating rice paper. the café features teas and products from jugetsudo, whose flagship tea cafés in tokyo and paris which were also designed by kuma.

the scheme is set to open this april on the 2nd

from a design perspective, the living roofs would liken to the thatched roofs of fishing huts from japan

aerial view of the 3.4 acres extension to the 9.1 acre property

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