Portland Japanese Garden looks to expand with help of renowned architect Kengo Kuma
Published: Friday, January 14, 2011, 9:50 PM Updated: Friday, January 14, 2011, 9:53 PM
Matt Buxton, The Oregonian
Tucked into the forested hills of west Portland, the Portland Japanese Garden is internationally recognized as one of the top gardens of its kind outside of Japan.
But with that success, the garden has also become crowded, and its offerings are beginning to fall short with visitors.
To alleviate crowds and enhance the garden, the not-for-profit grounds will soon finalize an expansion design that will include more room for classes and enhanced ways of experiencing Japanese culture -- while keeping the garden's authenticity intact.
"Japanese gardens are based on the idea of tranquility, and the challenge of this is how do we add these modern amenities in a way that's consistent with the current feel," said Steve Bloom, the garden's chief executive officer.
The garden has called on world-renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma to lead the project.
Kuma has designed buildings throughout Asia and Europe. His notable designs include the Great (Bamboo) Wall House, built near the Great Wall of China, and the Tiffany & Co. flagship store in Tokyo. The project will mark Kuma's first public design in North America.
"Slowly over the last couple of years, he began to understand the important role the project plays," Bloom said. "It was a really long process, and at the end it was clear that his passion for this project stands above his other projects."
Kuma will work within goals set out by a master site plan designed in 2007. The plan leaves the existing gardens alone.
"The expansion plan includes some new garden spaces, but that's not the focus," said garden spokeswoman Melissa Wilmot. "Our focus is on enhancing cultural experience."
That includes more room for classes and shows on Japanese culture, primarily focusing on gardening but also on art and cooking.
Bloom said the garden offers classes but they are limited and often filled well in advance.
Joining the teahouse outside the walls will be a new gift shop, replacing the garden's tiny 160-square-foot shop.
Overall, Bloom hopes the new space and services will establish the grounds as a unique combination of a garden and cultural center, something that's not present in Japan, where many gardens are private.
Soon, Kuma and the garden's staff will work together to finalize the design. Then the garden will start community fund-raising efforts.
Bloom said he hopes to break ground in 2013 -- the garden's 50th anniversary.
"I likened this to the first time Frank Lloyd Wright went to Japan," he said. "We're going to look back at this 50 years from now, and it will be just as notable."
- Matt Buxton; twitter: @mattbuxton;
Related topics: architects, kengo kuma, portland japanese garden