»Ishigami’s architecture is the architecture of space, not of object, which is a departure from conventional architecture. He discards the idea of architecture as a built, utilitarian structure by reversing the business- as-usual process, which is: building first, landscape second – if at all. Instead, with the project ‘Water Garden’, Ishigami leaves us wondering: is this architecture, landscape architecture, or art?
I believe the project is about atmosphere and spatial experience. Ishigami sensed the larger context of the project before he acted. He relied on his senses and emotions and recognized the spatial and emotive qualities of the landscape – rather than seeing it as just decoration. This ability to connect on an emotional basis is missing in most architecture we see today, as most architects and designers shy away from the discomfort of showing emotions, which means exposing vulnerability.
Ishigami is brave. It is his openness to his sensibilities, largess, and respect for the environment which touches me, especially given our present precarious situation. We have consistently undervalued the natural environment at our own peril. Ishigami’s project, for me, is about nostalgia and perhaps an inchoate desire to protect nature, which has for so long been considered ours to be tamed – an obstacle sitting in the way of “progress”. Now, the environment is proven to be fragile and in need of protection from ourselves.
With his work, Ishigami opens up a new way of doing architecture by inviting us to trust our inner emotional world, to be ok with exposing our fragility, and to think more freely. Should we not have greater appreciation for the environment and understand our relationship to it? Should we not be braver? More imaginative? I believe that Ishigami’s work is a major contribution to the field of architecture. It is a great inspiration, showing us a better way to build our world.«
»The project has a strong message in the way that it retells the story about nature. It is an artificial landscape and highly technological, but at the same time, it is extremely poetic. The daylight filters through the leaves and branches, which are mirrored in the small water pools, where rain drops hit the water. Before visiting the winning project, I had of course studied the plan, but I have to say that seeing it firsthand was beyond what I have ever seen in pictures. To me, it was one of these great moments in architecture that you only have a few times in your life as an architect.«
Kjetil Trædal Thorsen:
»Ishigami’s beautiful forest is a very interesting example of willingly designing something that is artificial, but also absolutely natural. The project fulfils all the criteria of the Obel Award: It is a new invention, it works very strongly with the emotions, and the work is directly related to landscapes and nature. It is a landscape that is full of beauty.«
»It is a very interesting choice, although Ishigami’s project does not immediately connect up with social aims. It looks as if it is a piece of art. But then it is obvious that the project integrates ecology and architecture. The project shows how, e.g., a hotel can be carefully placed into a landscape without destroying it. One of the most important aspects of seminal architecture is to take care of the landscape and respect the environment. Ishigami shows that the landscape – standing for nature as a whole – is a value in itself. This is an important philosophical idea. Nature cannot speak for itself, but we can and have to speak for it.«
The Architect's view
»The effects of human activities are beyond the scale of cities and are getting so vast that they are affecting the natural environments of the entire globe. I therefore believe that we architects today must comprehend architecture on a planetary scale, or rather on a natural scale, in contrast to the architects of yesterday who comprehended architecture on a city scale. People who live in different regions and cultures with different religions and history obviously have different values. The role of architects in the 21st century is to suggest infinite ways for architecture to correspond to the infinite values of many people around the world,«
With its deliberate composition of natural elements, the man-made landscape Art Biotop Water Garden resets the boundaries between architecture, landscape architecture, art, and environmentalism.
The garden is at once a highly artificial landscape, carefully modelled and dependent on technological artifacts, and an undeniably natural and living organism that grows and changes by its own inherent dynamics. In this way, the garden intermingles different time-spaces: a presence of former, existing and future layers of landscapes. But although it is a large-scale and rather invasive project involving, as it does, the relocation of an entire forest tree by tree. Junya Ishigami makes evident what great respect and care for the environment means.
Ishigami’s approach relies in large part on emotions and sensations and is based on the context and the qualities of the landscape. The result is a landscape full of beauty and atmosphere – a highly poetic space that strongly influences the emotions of the visitor.
With the project, Ishigami invites professionals within the fields of architecture and visitors alike to foster a greater appreciation for the environment and to understand our relationship to it, but also to act with imagination, bravery, and respect. The project demonstrates how we can interact with and make our imprint on nature without destroying it. In this sense, the Art Biotop Water Garden is a seminal contribution to the fields of architecture.
Beatrice Galilee (ed.), Obel Award 2019. Water garden by Junya Ishigami, Aedes Architecture Forum, Berlin 2020
"Botanical Garden Art Biotop 'Water Garden', Nasu-gun ", JA. The Japan Architect 112, winter 2019 [Yearbook 2018], pp. 60-63
"Poesia del paesaggio artificiale / Artificial landscape poetry", Domus 1036, giugno/june 2019, pp. 664-673
Alex Klimoski, "Landscape: Junya Ishigami's water garden", Architectural Record 12/2018, december 2018, pp. 29-31
"Botanical farm garden Art Biotop, water garden, Tochigi, Japan", GA Document 149, october 2018, pp. 102-111
Water Garden, Berlin, Aedes Architecture Forum, 13 may / 25 june 2020