Land is scarce in the inner city of Tokyo and restful green spaces few and far between. ‘Shinjuku Gardens’ – in the thriving hub of Tokyo’s inner city, is a conscious effort to make the most of the available open space; pushing boundaries in a quest to amalgamate much needed natural landscape into the infrastructure of the city. The project raises economical, social, environmental and cultural awareness on various aspects. The design strategies aim to maximize investment returns by providing more than double the amount of car parking spaces; optimize opportunities to inject greenscape to reduce CO2 exhaust emissions, and promote the arts and culture by offering spaces for art exhibitions in the city centre of Tokyo.
‘Shinjuku Gardens’ proposes to replace an existing open (80 number) car parking lot with a 2-storey car park; rendering the site with a sheltered ‘green-wall-gallery’ which will accommodate an additional 83 parking spaces. Appreciating the economical value of land, the car park adopts the most efficient parking layout grid. Replacing conventional car ramps with car lifts will maximize parking spaces; minimize traffic congestion, safety hazards and waiting time. This highly rational 54m x 33m parking structure occupies 22% less site coverage compare to the existing layout, leaving more quality public green spaces and allowing light and air to penetrate deeper into the already dense urban environment. External pedestrian ramps are inserted to provide public access to the rooftop garden and park-gallery above ground.
The simple, restrained and clear material palette subtlety blends in with the existing city fabric. The ‘soft-cladding’ of the structure is characterised by the wide balustrades to allow grass to coat the exterior of the frame, creating layers of ‘green living-walls’ as enclosures to the structure. Visually, the architecture enriches the community with layers of translucent green-curtains while shielding the views of parked cars. Functionally, the ‘soft-cladding’ utilizes the fields of grass to absorb CO2 exhaust emissions, acting as clean air filters between the buildings.
The rooftop garden is a new green oasis above the dedicated car park facility. This intimate social space above the infrastructure and man-made concrete structure is freely accessible and animated by the public at all times. Rainwater harvesting systems are incorporated to enhance the flow capacity, reduction of drainage runs, reduction of pipe sizes and reduction of debris blockage as rainwater infiltrates into the underground drainage systems.
The two levels of car parks are envisaged as park-galleries, where artists are invited to exhibit their artworks. Using structural columns and structural slabs as blank canvases for artists to create art might be a new culture to bring the arts into the everyday lives. Exhibiting art within found spaces is undoubtedly an economically viable and functionally manageable alternative to make the arts more accessible to the public. The project blurs between architecture and art; turning a conventional car park project into a Street Art Museum – looking deeper into the everyday ordinary environment to seek surprising findings.