Here’s something to meditate on: The Portland Japanese Garden is in the midst of 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 — will be enhanced by the Cultural Crossing Expansion, a massive undertaking that will add LEED certified buildings and seven new garden spaces, all with the goal of expanding the garden’s teachings and maintaining the tranquil vibe.
Construction began in the fall of 2015 and is being overseen by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and curator Sadafumi Uchiyama. The pair has planned a series of new structures and spaces that emulate 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.
In 2016, sightseers can experience a key element of the new features, the construction of a 20-foot (6.1 m) medieval castle wall using a traditional stone-stacking technique called ano-zumi. New areas to be completed by spring 2017 include the Chabana Garden & Oregon Basalt Terrace, a place dedicated to the tea ceremony. A Cultural Village will provide space for classes, events and festivals, while the Village Courtyard incorporates a tea café, gallery, classrooms, workshop space and a shop. The expansion will also include the creation of the International Institute for Japanese Garden Arts and Culture, to be based 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.”