Spirit of Forgotten Forests

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Status: Competition Entry
Date: 2018

Plan and Section

A project in collaboration with Asuka Kohno

Kyoto was built on the strength of a very intimate relationship between the human realm and the nature which cradles it. From that relationship, an appreciation of landscapes and their changing character grew to become an integral part of the rituals of daily life (a folklore of spirits, hidden in light and obscurity, in the movement or stillness of plants and water, of soils and stones.)

Long ago, the site of this project was a forest, but today it is nothing more than an isolated patch of greenery, disconnected from its traditional presence in daily life by tall hedges; but take a peek behind the hedges and you’ll find a forest with its own story to tell.

Besides the formal pathways, sidewalks and parking lots that have become the spaces of daily life, we find a small patch of forest yearning to be rediscovered. We enter and find three distinct landscapes, each with its own character, its own spirit. To communicate with these landscapes we insert a small temporary structure inspired by that landscape, a lantern-like device to capture and amplify its unique qualities. These structures invite us to dwell within a forgotten forest, to observe its beauty, and immerse ourselves in its stories with all of our senses. In addition to existing hedges, we designed simple earth walls, benches and plantings that guide people's gaze and movement towards discovering the three different spirits of the site. The sequence through the site is designed to engage visitors in a playful game of hide-and-seek with each of the three landscapes.

Procession / Experiences

Procession / Experiences

Three spirits of the site:

A. 温糺室 / A warm room

Under a dense coniferous forest canopy, warm waterways course through herbaceous plants; within this soft and humid space, one feels cocooned within the warmth of the local ancestral forests that once occupied the site.

B. 木漏れ日 / Sunlight and shadows

Further into the site, the shadows of barren deciduous trees sway in the wind. Within the shoji-like enclosure, visitors find a place where they can enjoy the theatrical performance created by the winter forest.

C. 巣床 / Burrow / Nest bed

Furthest along the path, animals look for places to nest and burrow. Visitors are invited to lower their point of view, hiding themselves close to the ground in a sheltered place where one can see without being seen, and experience a rarely seen side of the forest.

Construction system and timeline

Construction system and timeline

Nicolas Koff