Taking inspiration from the surrounding ancient temples, Nendo has created a series of stepped saucers that function as a playground, retail spaces and leisure facilities.
The recently completed public space from Nendo is a 6000-square-meter plaza named Cofufun that includes cafés, meeting spaces, and play areas. The space is located in the heart of Tenri, a small city in Japan’s Nara Prefecture. The town hopes to revitalise the community for both residents and tourists, with new events space, leisure facilities, and information kiosks.
The inspiration for the design comes from the local areas numerous ancient Japanese tombs known as Kofun. Nendo’s design team reinterpreted the form of these megalithic mounds within the plaza. The Kofun-inspired structures simultaneously serve as stairways, benches, and roofs. “This variety creates an environment that encourages visitors to explore and spend time in different spaces within the plaza, rather than limiting their movement to one place,” explains Nendo. “It’s an ambiguous space that’s entirely a café, a playground, and a massive piece of furniture, all at once.”
According to their function, the saucers have been arranged at four different heights in order to minimize noise levels. A play space for children, a lounge and study for reading, and a stage that can be used for concerts or public screenings have all been added to the meeting area.
The ‘Kofun’ were formed at a factory using precast concrete moulds, before being pieced together on-site with the help of cranes. This method means that large spaces can be formed without the use of columns or beams, while the round shapes result in well-balanced structures that offer a high degree of stability.
The plaza’s name, Cofufun, combines the main design reference with the colloquial Japanese expression, Fufun — meaning a happy, unconscious humming. “The design for the plaza should offer a convivial atmosphere that unconsciously leads visitors to hum, happily, while they’re there,” adds the design team.
Images © Takumi Ota