Focus on

Towards urban development “loved by all” and accepting diversity.

theme: Landscape

Towards urban development “loved by all” and accepting diversity.

The Osaka Umeda area, one of the world’s greatest terminals. “Umekita” is the large-scale complex development project with the former Umeda cargo yard on the north side of JR Osaka Station at its heart. The earlier development district of Grand Front Osaka opened in 2013, while the next, “Umekita 2nd Project” is scheduled for advance opening in the summer of 2024. Of the approximately 91,000 square meters of the entire site, around half, approximately 45,000 square meters will be created into a park space abounding with greenery.

With the vast urban park in the center, it will be divided into North District and South District. The urban park will have the ability to accommodate large-scale events and seasonal activities.
The grassy open area will be ideal for relaxation and play on weekends and holidays, and also somewhere for office staff to take a break on weekdays. Wide-ranging use is expected, despite its location in the center of the city, as a place offering healing and revitalization, such as through providing new services and trialing events.

The theme of the urban development is a “base with ‘MIDORI (greenery)’ and ‘Innovation’ in harmony”. I asked three people overseeing its landscaping about what form it would take.
“There are several metropolitan parks in the world, such as New York Central Park, but a park in a super downtown location where offices and industry coexist with a place to relax – a park consistent with economic activity – is unprecedented worldwide. We hope to improve the quality of citizens’ lives as well as spur progress in Osaka’s industry, so we are aiming for “‘MIDORI (greenery)’ and ‘Innovation’ in harmony” linked to creativity in the future”, says Mr. Naoya Kuriyama of Hankyu Hanshin Properties Corp.

From left, Mr. Naoya Kuriyama / Hankyu Hanshin Properties Corp. (Assistant Manager, Umekita Area Development Division), Mr. Nao Murakami / Obayashi Corporation (Manager of Project Promotion Department, Osaka Main Office), Mr Kazuhiro Sasaki / ORIX Real Estate Corporation (General Manager Umekita Development Department)
Umekita 2nd Project model and design plan. From the positioning of buildings to the shape of the lake, much of the hidden potential is still being investigated and developed in time for 2024. What will the knowledge, experience, images and hopes create that are in the minds of the various people engaged in the project?

“Landscape” is the most important issue in the urban development of Umekita 2nd Project District.
Landscaping is a method of designing the whole town, from various standpoints such as people’s lives and activities, scenery and environment, not just design of the external area around structures.
“In Japan, awareness of landscape designers is low compared to that of architects; however, they think from the perspective of the grand design of the whole town, including its connection with the surroundings and the relationship between buildings and their external areas, not based purely on the structures such as high-rise buildings”, says Mr. Hisashi Murakami of Obayashi Corporation.
Overseeing the landscape design will be global landscape architecture company “GGN (Gustafson Guthrie Nichol)” that is based in Seattle, USA and represented by a trio of designers including Kathryn Gustafson. Despite Kathryn’s love of Japan, this Umekita project will be her first Japanese project. GGN will lead interpretation of the landscape from the history and climate of the town, and its land formation. Here, based on the history and climate in which Osaka once flourished as a water city with many rivers flowing through it, the plan is to create a landscape that gives a sense of the original Umekita ground and the seasons in Osaka.
“One reason we entrusted the project to GGN is that they have deep knowledge of Japan and also employ Japanese staff. We hope that their involvement in up-to-date overseas projects, and deep understanding of the culture of Japan and Japanese sentiment and subtlety, will enable them to combine all that knowledge in harmony”, says Mr. Murakami.

Landscape architecture company founded in Seattle in 1999 by three female landscape architects, Jennifer Guthrie (left) Kathryn Gustafson (middle), and Shannon Nichol (right). GGN has designed numerous renowned landscapes, including the “Lurie Garden” in Millennium Park in Chicago and the “National Museum of African American History and Culture” in Washington, D.C. © Julie Harmsenlow
An image sketch by GGN of the “OSAKA MIDORI” story. A fresh attempt at a challenge for Osaka with its lack of greenery. GGN has researched thoroughly, from their own perspective, the features of Japanese towns and architecture.
Study submitted at the time of the competition. Analyzing the entire site and surrounding district from a bird’s-eye view, it examines the design from various perspectives, such as people’s line of passage and spatial links, land undulations etc.

“Despite the location in the center of a large city, it considers the natural environment including wild birds and insects. The design aims for coexistence with indigenous nature, such as creating a water flow that makes it difficult for insects to breed rather than destroying them – even those considered pests like mosquitoes”, says Mr. Kazuhiro Sasaki of ORIX Real Estate.
So that many different people can use the park – walking visitors and local residents, nearby office workers etc. – spaces will be created enabling a range of activities, including Umekita-no-Mori where they can experience the seasons, Reflection Square that can accommodate 10,000 people, and relaxation areas with cafes etc. That will also be used as an innovative space to try out demonstrations of new services and ideas.

“Among the events using the streets of Portland, citizens enjoyed a game of giant Jenga of their own accord. Many different people regardless of generation got involved, and that brought about communication, which is a good thing. We Japanese appeared to be good at piling up Jenga, and were praised by the local children with ‘wow, they-re amazing!’ (laugh)”, says Mr. Murakami.
Taking a stroll, relaxing at a cafe or restaurant, taking part in events… various people congregating – I want to create a kind of park that achieves Quality of Life for each and every person”, says Mr. Kuriyama.
“We took reference from Millennium Park in Chicago and Bryant Park in New York. GGN was also engaged in the design of Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. I want to create a park that puts importance on ‘civic pride’ and that citizens will love”, says Mr. Sasaki.

“Knowledge Capital is an intellectual collective base in the earlier development district of Grand Front Osaka. Furthermore, core facilities aimed at creating innovation that have been put in place in the 2nd project will combine with new parks, offices and hotels etc. with the intention of developing new activities in the future. Also, by taking advantage of the obliging and unreserved mentality typical of Osaka, we hope to create a town that actively accepts many different people regardless of nationality, gender or age. We believe that it is through diversity gathering that original ideas are born, so we are proposing new ways to use parks that will spread as a global standard”, says Mr. Sasaki. The unveiling of the whole picture is eagerly awaited.

The trio discuss each of their ideal towns while viewing the plans. With the realization of services using robots and drones, dreamlike possibilities are limitless.