Junya Ishigami’s Art Biotop Water Garden is a stunning ‘living’ landscape in the foothills of Japan’s Nasu Mountains that aims to obscure the boundary between landscape architecture, art and environmentalism
While the garden is carefully modelled and reliant on technological artefacts, the work is both highly artificial and undeniably natural — a living organism that grows and changes by its own inherent dynamics. The temporal characteristics of the landscape are revealed with the existence of former, existing and future layers.
While Junya Ishigami opened Water Garden at Art Biotop Nasu in mid-2018, the project has now been honoured with the inaugural Obel Award. The invasive, large-scale project called for the relocation of an entire forest tree by tree. With this endeavour, the artist emphasises the meaning of great respect and care for the environment. The approach — sculpting space without the imposition of built objects — relies in large part on the emotions and sensations of the viewer and is founded on the context and the qualities of the landscape. The result is a highly poetic landscape that acutely influences the visitor on an emotional level.
With Water Garden, Ishigami invites both visitors and professionals within the fields of architecture to foster a greater understanding and respect for the natural environment. The project guides the viewer’s interaction with nature, demonstrating how one might leave an imprint without destroying it.
“Ishigami’s architecture is the architecture of space, not the object, which is a departure from conventional architecture,” said Martha Schwartz, chair of the Obel Award jury. “He discards the idea of architecture as a built, utilitarian structure by reversing the business-as-usual process, which is: building first, landscape second — if at all. Instead, with the project Water Garden, Ishigami leaves us wondering is this architecture, landscape architecture, or art?”
The Obel Award is a new, international prize for architectural achievement presented annually by the Henrik Frode Obel Foundation, founded by Henrik Frode Obel (1942-2014). The prize is $186,716 and artwork by Tomás Saraceno.
The aim of the award is to honour recent and outstanding architectural contributions to human development all over the world. These contributions offer seminal solutions to urgent problems. The award is given to works or projects from the past five years. It can be given to an architect or group of architects, and the award-winning project can range from a manifesto to a masterplan and include buildings, landscape projects and exhibitions.
Via designboom | Images © Nikissimo Inc