NENDO REVITALIZES A RAIL STATION PLAZA INSPIRED BY AN ANCIENT LOCAL TOMB.
While Bangkok is seeing the expansion of its railway network into the capital city’s suburban areas and vicinity, the relationship between the stations and the areas where the mass transit system has found its way has become another interesting and important issue. Such relationship encompasses not only the linkage of routes but also the connection made through the presence of new public spaces that is emerging. In many cases, expropriated lands are underused or even left unused while a connection to the area’s identity is further overlooked.
Tenri Station Plaza is a project that occupies the ground in front of Tenri railway station in Nara prefecture, located in the southwest region of Japan with nendo being the mind behind the design. The project is an interesting example of the development of an unused piece of land into a new public space where a distinctive architectural aesthetic is inspired and derived from the town’s own important historical site. When comparing the plaza to the adjacent bus and taxi stations, one can see that while the station and parking lot emphasize a fast circulation flow, the plaza by nendo intentionally invites users to spend their time in the space for an extended period. The project is comprised of a variety of facilities from cafés and a bicycle rental shop to retail stores and other activity grounds such as play areas and outdoor stages with the entire program occupying a total space of 6,000 square meters.
CoFuFun is the name nendo has given to the project and the moniker is derived from the word Cofun, which refers to the ancient tombs found around the town of Tenri while the word Fufun means humming a tune, signifying joy and happiness. Together, the two words imply a connection between interesting physical characteristics and the kind of atmosphere the design team wants to create for the space. Cofun is a megalithic tomb with a circular or keyhole-shaped plan while some areas are constructed in the shape and form of saucers with descending steps. The architect employed the tomb’s physical traits as key elements of the design. The design’s connection with the town’s historical site also reflects the geographical conditions of Tenri that are embraced by beautiful mountains.
Whether it’s the view from the station or the surrounding areas, the image of Tenri Station Plaza in the eyes of commuters is a landscape of hills and stepped saucers arranged in continual clusters. The architect delivers the master plan that divides the space into three sections including retail spaces, outdoor stages of different sizes, and the specially constructed hills with the stepped saucer hidden at the center including an ascending white hill with a large table installed at the top. For the ground between these different zones, nendo utilizes circular patterns to help determine the boundaries of the space, facilitating a physical connection with the walkways that lead to the inside of the station, garden and play areas.
WHILE STEPS ARE UTILIZED AS THE KEY ELEMENT, THE DESIGN BRINGS, NOT ONLY A DIVERSITY OF ACTIVITIES, BUT ALSO ALLOWS FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF NEW INTERPRETATIONS
But what’s really interesting about CoFuFun is that while steps are utilized as the key element, the design brings, not only a diversity of activities, but also allows for the possibility of new interpretations. The steps are used to serve functional purposes such as facilitating circulation, entrances and providing seating and, at the same time, contain a symbolic quality in the form of the roof or stage’s backdrop. Additionally, the architectural elements of different functionalities are arranged and connected to other compositions such as ramps, saucers, signage, guideposts, railings and furniture, consequentially optimizing the program’s diversity.
Apart from the functional program, the construction of Tenri Station Plaza is another significant factor that not only helps to achieve but also accentuates the work’s strong concept. The circular-shaped hills and saucers are constructed from prefabricated concrete steps whose triangular form is similar to that of a slice of pizza. The prefabrication employed in the construction helps to save a great deal of costs that would have otherwise been spent on molds for casting. The onsite assembly of the prefabricated parts allows for the structure to connect almost seamlessly while the weight can be transferred without the need for supporting columns. This results in the program’s functional convenience and creates an uninterrupted, unified space.
The word Co in CoFuFun implies the notion of ‘Community’ or ‘Cooperation’, essentially referring to the nature of a friendly public space, which is something nendo gave great importance to when developing Tenri Station Plaza’s program and design. And while the architect team has the city’s ancient tomb as its inspiration, the reinterpretation of Tenri’s historical background into an architectural element has also given birth to the built structure that refrains from alienating itself from the people. On the contrary, it stimulates diverse interactions between the space and the inhabitants of Tenri as well as visitors to this beautiful little mountain town.
TEXT: WINYU ARDRUGSA