Picture this: You are walking through a bustling city and people are everywhere. Your thoughts become lost amongst a constant droning of passing vehicles and the unnecessarily loud conversations of people passing you on the sidewalk. You are searching for an escape, a park, shopping, a place where you can meander aimlessly at an unrestricted pace to watch people, maybe even window shop, but most of all a place where you can escape the bustling city. You then notice the pathway you are walking upon beginning to slope up, seemingly away from the city, trees and bushes have taken place of the cars and store-front facades you were accustomed to seeing. As you explore deeper and deeper into what has now become a canopied walkway of a wonderfully foliaged vertical landscape, you seem to forget that you are still in the city. Periodically, you notice some options for personal entertainment: locations for casual dining, sporadic retail, and locations to lounge and relax. You are still in the city, but the heavy density that was once apparent is now hidden behind this natural presence all around you. Welcome to Namba Parks.
Shopping malls are usually visually disturbing; they lack any interesting details, are surrounded by many acres of unused parking (OK, with the exception of black Friday), and are typically various shaped boxes placed next to each other. In cities, malls become even more difficult to make interesting due mainly to restrictions of street locations and the public’s desire for parking, making the “box” seem like the logical solution to the design. But to Architect Jon Jerde, this does not always need to be the case.
Jerde has completed numerous projects much like the one described in the introduction. You might ask, what does this have to do with landscape? Well, Jerde’s designs are almost impossible to recognize as “malls” but more so as elegantly architected vertical/horizontal (for lack of a better term) landscapes. Namba Parks is located in Namba-naka Nichome, Naniwa-ku, Osaka, Japan. The mall was opened in October of 2003. The mall is built in the city, however features a sloping park which connects to the street level on the southern end, and rises atop the mall on the northern end. It is very well recognized and is greatly integrated into the surrounding urban fabric. Its connection to the street makes it very easy for visitors and everyday passers-by to enter its collection of trees, lawns, cliffs, clusters of rock components, waterfalls, ponds, terraces…and forget that they are still even in the Osaka, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Beneath this beautiful landscape, a canyon carves its way through a collection of specialty entertainment, retail, and dining opportunities.
The design gives visitors the ability to explore and exterior to interior park-like landscape, as well as an opportunity to explore the deep, cavernous shopping and dining area, all while being located in an immense city…and not even realize it! Its exterior imitates the canyon-like design featured on the interior, making it seem as if the land itself has risen up from the ground, with linear façade details mimicking the understanding of the stacking of materials of the Earth’s crust beneath the surface. It is a fascinating display of when Landscape and Architecture exist as one.
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