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Cultural Village

Kengo Kuma & Associates

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Symone Garvett

Project Name

Cultural Village

Year Completed


Construction Cost



Portland Japanese Garden

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Project Description


The Portland Japanese Garden, celebrated as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside Japan, will on April 2 open its $33.5M Cultural Village expansion. Designed by world renowned architect Kengo Kuma, who is also spearheading the National Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Garden’s new Cultural Village will not only provide additional space to accommodate its rapid visitor growth, but also - and most importantly - enhance its ability to immerse visitors in traditional Japanese arts and culture.

“In this increasingly connected, distracted world, we find many of our guests seek out the peace and respite they find within the Garden,” said Steve Bloom, chief executive officer for the Portland Japanese Garden. “With this new Cultural Village, we will extend the Garden’s legacy and purpose, providing a heightened sense of tranquility, a more robust educational experience and preservation of significant cultural traditions and art forms.”

Architectural Inspiration
Kuma’s appreciation for Japanese design principles - and how they remain relevant in today’s modern world - make him an ideal match for the Garden’s aim. Together with the Portland Japanese Garden’s Curator, third generation master garden craftsman Sadafumi Uchiyama, Kuma designed the new Cultural Village, his first public commission in the U.S., to honor the singular experience of each visitor and ensure the serenity is protected for future generations.

“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.”

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 better 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.

Using a combination of locally sourced materials and Japanese craftsmanship, the Village’s design is informed by a cross-cultural exchange of expertise. The Tateuchi Courtyard is 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. New buildings include:

· The Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center is home to new gallery spaces, a multi-purpose classroom, the Garden gift store and the Vollum Library, a comprehensive resource on Japanese gardening and related arts.
· A new Garden House, where an expanded offering of horticulture workshops will take place.
· At the heart of the village, visitors will find an authentic, intimate Umami Café, which provides a place to rest and refresh while experiencing Japanese tradition firsthand. The café features teas and products from Jugetsudo, whose flagship tea cafés in Tokyo and Paris were also designed by Kuma. Its unique location cantilevers over the hillside at the east side of the Village and will provide scenic views of the area’s surrounding beauty. Constructed using Port Orford cedar and Tyvek, which emulates rice paper, the café floats in nature and fuses harmoniously into its surroundings.

Kuma designed living roofs atop the structures, which absorbs rainwater and prevents water run-off. From a design perspective, the living roofs are likened to the thatched roofs of fishing huts from centuries ago in Japan.
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