Born in 1954, Kengo Kuma established Kengo Kuma & Associates (KKAA) in 1990. He is also a Professor at the prestigious University of Tokyo and KKAA projects are currently underway in more than 30 countries. Kuma proposes architecture that opens up new relationships between nature, technology and human beings.
He designed the Tokyo Olympic Main Stadium for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics and his philosophy is to develop human-scaled, gentle, and soft designs with the aim of creating architecture that blends seamlessly into the nature and culture of the land where they are built.
One of his most recent projects is Prostyle Sapporo Miyanomori, his first residential project in the region. Here are highlights of a recent Kuma interview, courtesy of Prostyle, about the background of the design and the premium lifestyle that it features in Miyanomori, Chuo Ward, Sapporo:
Photo courtesy of Prostyle
What's the special thing about Prostyle Sapporo Miyanomori that enticed you to join the project?
When it comes to constructing a building, we first thoroughly research the site. Not only the condition and specifications of the site, but also the charm of the city, the culture, and the activities of the people there are important information. This time, I personally visited the site and conducted a survey, and found that the living environment was wonderful. I thought that having a panoramic view of nature and the city from the property was a very rare opportunity, and I was fascinated by the potential of the site. Being close to nature is so wonderful. You get power.
A building that stretches upward is separated from nature. Some people get sick when they are away from nature for too long. There aren' t many residential areas in Japan where you can experience real nature, just 10 to 15 minutes by car from the center of a big city, and I immediately felt the luxury. You can easily imagine that you can open the window with peace of mind, and if you open it, a pleasant breeze will come in.
At first, I envisioned an architecture that makes use of the hill, rather than something that stands out. It was a project that took a lot of time to actually make it happen. Harmony between architecture and nature is becoming a global trend, and some people in Japan should be able to realize that trend. In the near future, the value of being able to do this kind of architecture in Japan will become even more apparent.
The business owners—Prostyle and LogSuite—are companies that are committed to using natural solid wood. There are a lot of elements of the project that resonate with this. I approached the project thinking that I would definitely be able to create something that no one else had.
What have you seen when comparing housing complexes in other locations?
I went to Perth and saw their housing complexes which didn' t feel like a community. Instead, they looked like individual houses stacked on top of each other. The usual apartment is like a large box, and I think it is hard for people living there to feel that the building is their home. However, I believe what we have built here gives a sense of "this is my home". It is like a collection of smaller houses that is a part of a large villa, and it prioritizes the concept of human-scaled units that our individual selves can relate to. Additionally, I believe the warmth expressed through the textures of wood also gives people the sense that they are "at home." This leads to a high quality of life and a better future.
What do you think "high quality of life" means?
As we have been forced to stay home longer than usual due to Covid-19, I think it has become clearer than ever that there is a crucial need to feel connected with nature at home. For example, if the city is locked down once again and we are forced to stay at home the whole time, we should be able to handle it with ease if we sense a connection that provides peace of mind. In Japan, we have a culture of decorating with bonsai plants inside our houses and planting trees or flowers in our gardens to brighten up the four seasons. I believe these subtle acts have a rejuvenating effect on those staying in the house. These natural stimulants that arouse our five senses will probably become even more important in the future.
While Prostyle Sapporo Miyanomori is built out of concrete, it also uses plenty of timber elements. It is extremely rare to use virgin logs as formwork when pouring concrete, and it is also a very difficult technique. This permanent formwork constructed out of virgin logs, which allows us to use the natural form of timber, is something that you will not see in a regular city apartment, and it posed a rare challenge for us. I hope the residents will enjoy living in this exquisite wooden structure surrounded by the nature of Miyanomori and a panorama of trees wherever they are in the residence.