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Unveiled> Portland Japanese Garden
Kenga Kuma's design uses natural materials to fit into a garden landscape without dominating it
Expansion to the Japanese Garden includesa tea house, educational center, and gift shop.
Courtesy Portland Japanese Garden

Architect: Kenga Kuma
Client: Portland Japanese Garden
Location: 611 SW Kingston Avenue, Portland, Oregon
Completion: 2013

After a rigorous two-year selection process, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has been chosen to lead the expansion of the Portland Japanese Garden. The addition to the 48-year-old garden, originally designed by Tokyo Agricultural University professor Takuma Tono, includes a cultural and education center, a gift store, and a public teahouse. The project will be built adjacent to the garden’s parking lot and outside its admission gates.

Using local natural materials such as wood and weather-treated papers, Kuma’s concept blends contemporary architectural elements with traditional Japanese vernacular. For instance, the stair-stepped, exposed wood Komorebi Living Room, as Kuma calls it, was developed as an abstraction of taruki construction, he said. It allows natural “dappled” light through while also providing generous views of the garden and the Northwest forest beyond.

Portland Japanese Garden by Kenga Kuma

Kuma will use local materials such as wood and weather-treated papers.

The new building designs will vary slightly according to function and will take advantage of varying views and natural light. Balaszs Bognar, Project Architect, explains that the goal is “that the buildings are not thought of as a series of semi-detached objects but as a coordinated sequence that leads to the main event: the gardens themselves.”

Ed McVicker, president of the Garden’s board, said that Kuma’s design “really demonstrated that he understood the importance of building structures within the landscape, not dominating it.” He added, “Bringing on a Japanese architect makes sense. It fits our vision and process for this garden.” Ground-breaking will take place following the garden’s capital campaign. However, McVicker says completion would be timed to the Garden’s 50th Anniversary in 2013.

Allison Milionis