Gifu Kitagata Gardens, Kitagata, Japan

Location: Kitagata, Japan
Client: Gifu Prefectural Government
Size: 46,877 square feet
Status: Completed 2000

This courtyard project is part of an experiment in “feminism in housing design” which also includes four apartment buildings designed by Akiko Takahashi, Kazuyo Sejima, Christine Hawley, and Elizabeth Diller respectively. In the project master plan, the courtyard is situated between each of the four separate housing blocks. Because of the diversity of architectural design found within the project, strong site imagery and geometry have been created for the courtyard to unify the distinct parts of the project and to give the project a memorable identity.

Before its present use for housing, rice paddies existed on this site. The geometric pattern of raised dikes and sunken paddies provides the metaphor for creating a series of sunken garden “rooms.” These rooms offer a variety of opportunities for passive enjoyment or active play including water features, children’s play opportunities, and public art. In the Willow Court, a sunken, flooded area with willow trees and wetland vegetation is made accessible by a wooden boardwalk. The Four Seasons Garden is a series of four miniature gardens that capture the spirit of each of the seasons and are enclosed by colored glass walls. In the Stone Garden, a circular fountain with stepping stones and rocks that spit water at irregular intervals creates a children’s play pool. The other garden rooms are the Cherry Forecourt, Iris Canal, Dance Floor, Children’s Playground, Sports Court, Water Rill, and Bamboo Garden. Each of these rooms provides a different experiential opportunity for the people who live in this community.