Ancient Japanese tombs inspire Nendo’s Kyoto architecture project

Japanese design studio Nendo has just unveiled a new architecture project — one of the firm’s firsts — for the plaza at Tenri Station in Nara prefecture, near Kyoto, called ‘CoFuFun’.

Photos courtesy of Daici Ano, Tadashi Endo, KOKUYO, Takumi Ota & Akihiro Yoshida.

The 6,000m2 plan, inspired by ancient Japanese tombs known as ‘kofun’, includes bicycle rentals, a cafe, shops, an information kiosk, a play area, outdoor stage and a meeting space. According to a statement released by the studio, the project was intended to encourage community closeness by creating a space for events, tourist information dissemination and leisure facilities for local residents.

The station’s urban boundaries consist of these ancient tombs, which date back to the megalithic era and were likely constructed between the third and seventh centuries. The kofun, which blend into everyday life in the city, are generally large domes, and their historic presence and aesthetic drove the design of the plaza’s architectural elements.

In addition to being punctuated by several kofun, the plaza’s landscape reflects the area’s characteristic geography, including the Nara Basin, which is enclosed by mountains on all sides.

The round kofun were built using a technique that fitted together pieces of a precast concrete mould resembling a large pizza. Because precast concrete moulds were formed at a factory and then assembled onsite like building blocks using massive cranes, the resulting structures are precise, and the same mould could be used multiple times.

The plaza’s name ‘CoFuFun’ combines the ‘kofun’ or ‘cofun’ with colloquial Japanese ‘fufun’, meaning happy, unconscious humming. In English, too, the co signifies cooperation and community, as well as ‘fun’ itself being a positive word. The intention therefor being that CoFuFun means similar things to tourists as it does to local residents.

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