Global Design – Martha Schwartz Garden

What a great example of global this housing development, Kitagata Garden City, is. Four architects, all women from all different parts of the world all designing their own public housing apartment block. Then renowned landscape architect Martha Schwartz was given the job of stringing it all together with her garden and giving it all a sense of a place.

Kitagata is a unique community designed as a global experiment in social housing. This kind of garden city concept began in Europe last century. But in Japan there has been no precedent until now and this project took a unique approach.

To counter the homogeneous aesthetics that mass housing usually produces each of the 4 architects were prevented from knowing details like the exact site of their building or the designs of the other architects. The resulting buildings are a reflection of the unique culture of each of the architects and their interpretation of how Japanese families would inhabit the space.

But the bit that really gets Brendan excited is Martha’s garden corridor that links all of these distinctive interpretations together. Martha’s approach was to convert a large space into a series of human scaled garden rooms. That provides a variety of experiences as you pass through the garden. This whole area used to be rice paddies and that was the inspiration for Martha’s geometric layout of the gardens and the sunken garden rooms. There is a willow court which provides a lovelly softer kind of contrast to the vastness of the buildings. It was also intended to be a meeting place for lovers.

Small intimate spaces of the garden stay quiet while larger connected areas like the dance floor come to life when the cities children return home from school. This garden says I am part of the modern world while still retaining all things Japanese – it’s ordered, calm, and restful.

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