Category: Special recognition
The primary goal of the project was to respond to local conditions. The presence of a significant regional park immediately adjacent to the property is an asset. In addition, the property faces south over the park, affording an uncommon opportunity to maximize solar access to all units.
The project was conceived as a series of four fan-capped elements, all linked at their lower floors, and shaped around a series of courtyard spaces, each with its own character. Each fan shape gestures southeasterly or southwesterly towards the park, Showa Kinen Koen, with the link buildings gaining southeasterly and southwesterly views. Buildings were placed with gaps to allow views through to the park from the more northerly locations.
The Nursing and Care Center was conceived around a U-shaped courtyard garden of its own along the southwest side of the site. Buildings were carefully massed to conform to the regional planning guidelines and optimize viewshed. From a site-planning perspective, the entrance was placed as far north as possible, and the main access road runs along park space.
Also, central to this concept is the idea of structuring the residents' and visitors' experience to gradually reveal all the interior public areas and exterior open spaces. This would heighten the experience of residents living there every day, provide for convenient way-finding, visual variety, and spatial richness.
The second goal was to provide a hospitality/resort feel. This goal was addressed concurrently with goal number one above. It contains both interior and exterior components. Entering the site from the north, one drives southeast and then south along the main tree-lined entry road adjacent to park space. All visual information provided to a visitor or resident arriving on the property is designed from the point of entry. The road terminates at a contemporary porte-cochere, and from this point one sees due south to the gardens beyond.
Entering the building one finds a reception/concierge desk, the main lobby and a gracious lounge space, and beyond it the primary courtyard, which is bounded by outdoor loggia adjacent to the lobby, a reflecting pond, and a "floating bridge" across the water, enclosing the court in the distance. Primary circulation is placed around this central court, as are the main public spaces.
All spaces are proportioned and have access to light and air. A main access corridor terminates at the library space, opening onto the south garden and borrowing the landscape of Showa Kinen Koen. Another corridor ends at the two dining rooms, which share the views of the south garden and park. Activity rooms and assembly spaces are placed strategically along the circulation path, and similarly afford views of the assembled courtyards and gardens. Interior design, furnishing, and finishes were developed in conjunction with the goal of collaborative design and execution.
"We are impressed by the quality of light and how it adds to the architecture. Incredible use of nature and water." - Jury comment
The "fan-shaped" wings and the tightly knit system of public space and outdoor courts and gardens are representative of unique features of this project. Japan is a country that, like many, has a rapidly aging population. Many services, features, and amenities address the aspirations of this new generation and its thinking. One component of this is in the food service area. While the idea of multiple dining destinations is not new, this innovation provides it in a setting that affords great light and amenity in a contemporary and non-traditional space.
Another component is the fully functioning library/lounge, which in addition to being a space to accommodate books is a social and learning center, with programming incorporating the other multi-function spaces. A third is the ofuro/spa/wellness and pool component. Public bathing is a ritual in Japanese culture; incorporating this with a wellness component and social awareness affords a new opportunity in a centuries-old tradition.
Developing the required number of units on the site while maintaining their southerly facing aspect and maximizing views to the park, while providing a gracious and functional public space layout was the greatest design challenge the project faced. This challenge was met through the collaborative design process. The decision to break the design into separate buildings linked on their lower floors, with surrounding varied courtyard and garden spaces was the first breakthrough in this challenge. This move enabled the team to break down the massing of a very dense project, and simultaneously respect solar access, maximize views and create value for the client. The other breakthrough was the proposal to enter the project site at the end, rather than in the middle of the project, which enhanced the "site experience" and allowed for a central, efficient entry.
Another challenge facing the project was the rigorous height limit governing development on the property. This challenge was met by modeling the various building "pieces" and studying their height/shadow impacts on their adjacent outdoor space, and molding the building mass into conformance in ways that would not adversely affect light and views.
Lastly, providing a secondary entrance and identity for the Care Center of the project was important. By placing the Care Center spaces in a U-shaped configuration around its own courtyard and backing this up to the central kitchen and service areas of the project, this challenge was addressed in a simple and direct way, and offered more control of the Care Center outdoor space.