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$750,000 grant helps garden double in size, add features



COURTESY: KENGO KUMA AND ASSOCIATES - The new buildings at Portland Japanese Garden (as in this rendering) were designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma.The view of Mount Hood from Portland was stunning last week, in the crisp November air with an unexpected burst of sunshine.

From the Japanese Garden, visitors could see the beacon shining on the landscape beneath a bamboo arch created by artist Shigeo Kawashima for a recent exhibit.

Visitors snapped photos and sat on a bench gazing into the distance, the thrum of the jackhammers fading like white noise in the distance.

One of Portland’s biggest visitor attractions, the Japanese Garden, is getting a $33.5 million Cultural Crossing expansion — and it’s now speedily progressing through construction, with an anticipated grand opening in April.

The garden’s first-ever renovation since opening in 1963 will more than double its size, to 12 acres open to the public year-round. It’ll include: an expanded parking lot; a cascading waterfall; a handcrafted Japanese castle wall; a tea cafe; classroom, gallery and workshop space; a courtyard for performances and festivals; a research library; and four new gardens. It also soon will be home to a brand-new International Institute for Japanese Garden Arts and Culture.

The three new LEED-certified buildings — where the hub of construction activity is these days — were designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma, who is designing the National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The garden project got a major boost this month from a $750,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

Based in Vancouver, Washington, the trust supports organizations that provide educational and cultural work in creative and sustainable ways. This was one of their larger awards — about a dozen awards each year are more than $500,000, given to nonprofits in five Pacific Northwest states.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Construction continues on the $33.5 million Cultural Crossing expansion at Portland Japanese Garden, which will double in size.In the past several years, the garden has shot up from seeing 30,000 visitors to 375,000 visitors per year as more people from all over the world seek urban spaces for sanctuary, natural beauty and cultural enrichment.

“They’re doing great things; (with the expansion) they will be able to ratchet up the number of people they serve substantially,” says Dana Miller, the trust’s senior program director. “With every project, we look for fundamental aspects of organization health, great leadership, strong compelling project details, planning, execution and sustainability.

Up to 40 percent of the trust’s grant applications are new each year.

The grant brings the garden within $7 million of their overall campaign goal.

Specifically, here’s what the new garden space will offer:

• A glass-enclosed tea cafe, perched on the hillside overlooking the new entrance, will offer a simple tea service and small bites. The building will have a living roof that will be covered in succulents and sedums.

• A new larger building adjacent to the teahouse is a classroom space, research library and center for Japanese culture and learning.

• A series of cascading ponds will flow down the hillside toward the entrance and parking lot, with visitors stepping across a terraced entrance along a zig-zag path (believed to ward off evil spirits in Japanese culture). Work parties of garden staff and volunteers have in past months been pulling ivy (which kills native plants) from the hillside to prep the site.

• A 20-foot castle wall that is the first of its kind to be built outside of Japan, designed by garden curator Sadafumi “Sada” Uchiyama. It was built by 15th-generation Japanese stone mason Suminori Awata, who flew in from Japan. He used a building style called ano-zumi, or dry stone, originating in 17th-century Japan.

• New garden spaces will include a moss hillside, with towering cedars and moss covering the slopes. Water will run down the hill and gather in a symbolic creek bed, which will be full in the winter and will dry out in the summer. A new bonsai terrace will feature the miniature trees in rotation throughout the seasons, to showcase the connection between nature, time and humanity. A third garden will focus on Japanese native wildflowers, which will be cultivated to be used in tea ceremonies — the only one in North America of its type.

• The new Cultural Village will include a tiny urban garden, or tsubo-niwa, which incorporates each element of a Japanese garden — stone, water and plants.

The Portland Japanese Garden is open this winter during construction; for more: www.culturalcrossing.com.

@jenmomanderson

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