Here’s something to meditate on: The Portland Japanese Garden has undergone its first-ever upgrade since opening in 1963. Long revered as a kind of living classroom of Japanese aesthetics and culture, the garden’s five original areas — the Flat Garden, Strolling Pond Garden, Tea Garden, Natural Garden and Sand & Stone Garden — are now enhanced by the Cultural Crossing Expansion. This massive undertaking adds LEED certified buildings and seven new garden spaces, all with the goal of expanding the garden’s teachings and maintaining its tranquil vibe.
Construction began in the fall of 2015 and was overseen by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and curator Sadafumi Uchiyama. The pair planned a series of new structures and spaces that emulated Japanese monzenmachi, gate-fronted villages typically surrounding sacred sites and temples. These are meant to keep social and spiritual areas separate and enhance cultural enrichment for the garden’s 300,000 annual visitors.
As of April 2, 2017, visitors can enjoy the Village Courtyard, which provides space for classes, events and festivals. The new Cultural Village incorporates a tea café, gallery, classrooms, workshop space and a gift shop. A 20-foot (6.1 m) medieval castle wall was built using a traditional stone-stacking technique called ano-zumi. The Chabana Garden & Oregon Basalt Terrace is dedicated to the tea ceremony. The expansion also included the creation of the International Institute for Japanese Garden Arts and Culture at the Portland Japanese Garden.
“I see the design as a metaphorical bridge,” says Kuma. “It’s an architectural and cultural link that binds the U.S. and Japan. It joins the East and the West, and draws together designers and craftsmen on both sides of the Pacific to trade ideas and knowledge.”