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American Society of Landscape Architects


May 2006 Issue

Sculptured Park
Eighteen years in the making, Isamu Noguchi’s park design is open for play in northern Japan. 

By Marc Treib

Sculptured Park Marc Treib

It isn’t easy to get to Moerenuma Park from central Sapporo, the prefectural capital of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. You need to take the subway and then a bus, and it takes the better part of an hour, even if you are lucky enough to catch one of the infrequent connections. Given its origin as a garbage dump there was no reason for selecting a location closer to housing, schools, and shopping. But people seem to come there all the same, even in the autumn rain. (It was pouring on the October day I visited the park; the temperature was in the 40s with the rain, driven by strong winds, falling nearly horizontally—hence the lack of people in most of the photographs. When miraculously the rain stopped late in the afternoon, and patches of brilliant sun returned, so did the more adventurous Sapporoites.)

The idea for the park originated as part of a 1979 plan to deposit waste on a site set on the city’s northeastern fringe. But the authorities, in particular Mayor Nobuo Katsura, had greater visions for the place after the dump’s projected closure. He wanted a public park—a park of somewhat heroic scale—and that is exactly what was achieved, although it took more than two decades to realize.

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