After nearly 20 years, Tokyo-based architecture firm APL design workshop recently returned to the Maezawa Garden House in Kurobe, Japan to update the grounds for the Theater Olympic 2019 international drama festival. In addition to updating the outdoor amphitheater that they had completed in 1989, the architects created the new White Flower Arbor, a stunning open-air pavilion, supported by 17 living oak and cedar trees, that blurs the boundaries between nature and architecture. 

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steps leading to tree-covered garden arbor

Located near the Japan Sea, the Maezawa Garden House was created by Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate Maki Fumihiko in 1982 for global Japanese company YKK. Surrounded by forest on all sides, the vast property stretches from northeast to the southwest with the house on the east end, an outdoor amphitheater on the west side and a long, undulating lawn with a natural garden in between. The amphitheater, also known as the Open Air Theater, comprises a circular, grassy mound and a semicircular slope with timber steps; the open layout and the long adjacent lawn allows for events that can accommodate anywhere from 300 to 1,000 spectators.

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wood-lined shipping container interior with bar stools and a long narrow table
trees growing through wood deck

When the outdoor amphitheater was selected as one of the venues for the Theater Olympics 2019, APL design workshop was asked to add stage lighting to the steps — built from reclaimed railroad ties — and temporary dressing rooms, which the architects created from repurposed shipping containers lined with timber. 

trees growing through a wooden pavilion
open amphitheater facing green hills

To provide a rest space for visitors, the architects also designed the new White Flower Arbor, an open-air pavilion with a lightweight roof supported by 26 pillars that include 17 living trees and 9 steel columns. The pavilion, which was meant to be temporary, has now become a permanent feature of the grounds due to popular demand. The architects said, “As this gazebo sits on the foot of a slope covered by a forest — almost like a Japanese Shinto shrine — its entity sinking into the forest looks like a part of nature from the outside, while on the inside, its chilly air and darkness bring the people in the gazebo to a world of myth.”

+ APL design workshop

Photography by Kitajima Toshiharu / Archi Photo via APL design workshop

tree-covered pavilion near gray building