Art Biotop Water Garden by Junya Ishigami+Associates is an artificial landscape that has won the inaugural Obel Award.
The project is located in a meadow near the site of a new hotel in the natural setting of Nasu in Tochigi. Before, the meadow site was a paddy field; a forest overgrows with moss, like the present-day surroundings. Traces of the site’s history, such as a sluice gate to draw water in remained. The site of the new hotel was once a forest where many trees would have to be cut down in order to make way for the building. Since the total area of the forest and the meadow were nearly the same, the project relocates the entire forest to the adjacent meadow. This act transforms the meadow, not only by moving the forest but also by superimposing all layers from the history of the site’s former environment the landscapes of the paddy field and the mossy forest are overlapped as one.
Landscapes that were originally here, but never met, mix and mingle with each other. Trees from the adjacent forest are rearranged on the site and water is drawn in from the existing sluice gate to fill countless ponds, which are all connected to the existing irrigation system with water flowing continuously at different rates. The ponds and trees are spread across the entire site at a density that is never found in nature. Moss laid out beautifully to fill the spaces in between. Without adding or discarding anything that was here, a hitherto unseen new nature appears on the site.
Planning landscapes as if planning architecture. Extending the scale of architecture and increasing the accuracy and specificity of the landscape are realised simultaneously. By planning specific shapes of trees and ponds, the vague scenery of the forest is given framework, and considered as a space with as much detail as possible. By moving trees to the adjacent site and rearranging them, the pieces of the puzzle are intentionally shifted. Autonomy of each tree is born. Luminous spaces appear between 318 unique tree shapes, at the same time 160 ponds are designed among these trees.
Trees that are moved and rearranged are all deciduous trees such as beech, quercus, and canine. These tree species cannot coexist with water in close proximity in the existing natural environment. By applying waterproofing in the ponds, this coexistence and a new relationship which never existed are created. How can human beings intervene in the natural environment? Will the new nature created by them change our living environment? By planning nature in a detailed way, natural environment and human environment mingle, intertwine and merge more closely.