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Landscape for office environments 4/9

2011.04.14

□ Two spaces on the west district of Shinjuku Station

In 1970s, the redevelopment of the west district of Shinjuku Station had been boomed in terms of the attempt of fusing business environments and commercial spaces.

Here is a comparison of two contrasting places, Shinjuku Mitsui Building (awarded the second Yoshida Isoya Prize) and Sumitomo Sankaku Building, both established there in 1974. They shows a clear example that a place would be resolved in completely different way depending on aspects that architects, landscape architects, and other creators would set up.

A famous sculptor, Yusuke Aida (1931-) worked on the landscape for Mitsui Building. He as a sculptor graduated in urban planning department of Chiba University, has achieved distinction in not only the field of environmental design but also the educational field. The plaza at Mitsui Building is aesthetic and functional space composing three-dimensional correlation in three different floors of the building to the adjacent street. Brick-like earthenware, which Aida was specialized was essentially employed for the space where give a calm impression even though it is in the urban setting.The plaza after more than 30 years from the completion has resulted planted zelkova trees humongous, meantime, still has been used by many people as they like because of its nature of proper scale for human activities. High enthusiasm Aida as a landscape architect put into the space keep providing us the timeless story.

On the other hand, the one of the country’s largest architectural company, Nikken designed Sumitomo Sankaku Building. Assumed that there was no landscape architectural aspect in composing a business environment in those days, the constructed place was occupied with entirely hard surfaces, and meantime, the building like a sculpture with having three fronts, was sit at the dead center of the property. Reflected heat in summer time as well as a chilly north wind strengthened with building-induced wind generates the severe environment that ironically caused a hairdresser tenanted at the time as the building opened immediately closed.

Adjacent Metropolitan Government Office building also has similar problem as Sumitomo Sankaku Building does. European styled plaza designated in front of the assembly buildings indeed ended up a cold inhuman space where no people can be seen unless at the time some events taken place. There is no comfortable condition expected if a plaza facilitated with no attractive store, restaurant, or church for gathering with no planting. The place is remarked as the example to show even aesthetic and wide-open space would throw no interest for users if there is no intention to make people gathering in inhuman scaled circumstances.

The west district of Shinjuku Station had been developed in 1970-80, the time of innovative and active challenging for Japan, and architects as well as landscape architects were forced to deal with series of trials and errors. However, clear indication in the landscape design still outstand places with universal values passing to the present. We must pay attention again with the value of planning employing the power of nature and communicational ability that people originally obtain.

Yoshiki Toda

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