My Architecture and Nature | Sou Fujimoto at 2019 UABB (Shenzhen)



“I am very excited every time I come to Shenzhen”

“The enthusiasm here inspired me”

Sou Fujimoto, a leading new-generation Japanese architect, is no stranger to Shenzhen. In 2019, Fujimoto “visited Shenzhen almost every month”. Later on he participated in the design competitions for Shenzhen Maritime Museum and Shenzhen Natural Museum, and acted as a jury for several other important competitions in the city.

Actively engaged in portraying the cityscape of Shenzhen from different perspectives, Sou Fujimoto also brought his works -- Akin to a Forest to the 8th Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) opened in last December. The installation is a “skyscraper” stacked with wooden furniture, and, from the perspective of scale, probes into the relationship between “city” and “nature”, a topic which he has been studying for long. This article will focus on the exhibits of Sou Fujimoto, as well as his understanding about the relationship between nature and architecture, and between nature and city.


Graduating from the Department of Architecture of the Institute of Technology, the University of Tokyo in 1994, Sou Fujimoto founded Sou Fujimoto Architects in 2000. He won the Gold Lion Award, the highest honor of Architectural Biennial Venice, together with Toyo Ito in 2012. His representative works include N House, Short Term Treatment Center for Children with Emotional Disorders and etc.

Source: Archiposition


Akin to a Forest


Team Members: Hwasun IM, Calum MULHERN

The Forest is a place where many spectrums of scales are collected. Within the forest, from leaves and insects and the seeds it carries, to the grand scale of the vastest of forests, a myriad of truly diverse organisms interrelate and coexist. 

These varying scales also exist in architecture. A city is a collection of architecture, a collection of urban scale, a large collection of small individual elements; a combination of human scale and urban scale, inside and outside, architecture and nature. Like leaves in nature, furniture is a fundamental element of architecture and a representation of human scale. 

似于林中 草图.png

Sketch of “Akin to a Forest”

The project is developed from modules of individual wooden furniture pieces. By stacking these individual elements, a larger urban imitation volume is created introducing a different sense of scale. A total of 234 individual furniture pieces; from table lamps to ladders have varying sizes. Gathered together, they shape a nebulous silhouette from a delicate composition.

似于林中 概念图.png

The soft and approachable wooden material creates a comfortable atmosphere. This encourages the visitors to experience a serene personal moment with the exhibit. The new skyscraper from these memories is no longer overwhelming anymore, but rather neighborly. This new skyscraper form has no specific or defined boundary, therefore inviting its visitors to experience the spaces creatively. The variation in scale invites users to explore the installation to create their own definition of scale and boundary. 


Some Furniture of “Akin to a Forest”

The city of the future may be akin to a forest, architecture need not be enclosed. How we live in the future may resemble that of a nebulous forest. The past way of literal ascension of cities would evolve into a more metaphorical ascension, which is a pursuit for diversity, a blurred cohesion of scale that evolves from the human perspective.

This future city will be a place of complexity, rich in diversity far beyond preexisting architecture and cities of today. And its inhabitants will organically be a part of this diversity.

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Conceptual Sketches of “Akin to a Forest”


Akin to a Forest, 2019 UABB

Remarks at UABB: the Interaction between Nature and Architecture 


I want to build, or rebuild a harmonious and interactive relationship between people and nature, between nature and architecture, and create a wonderful connection between the natural and man-made objects. This is a very important part of my architectural idea.


Akin to a Forest, 2019 UABB

We certainly want something new in the future. But at the same time, there should also be some very basic thinking, such as the scale of nature, the scale of people, human communities and our lives, how to combine nature with architecture, and how to combine nature with future. Those are all very important and exciting challenges.


Akin to a Forest, 2019 UABB

Nature is both simple and complex, so is architecture. Intermediate scale or large scale could also be found within a small scale. To create balance among different scopes and typologies may become a key way interpreting the interaction between architecture and nature.

Nature is both simple and complex, so is architecture. Intermediate scale or large scale could also be found within a small scale. To create balance among different scopes and typologies may become a key way interpreting the interaction between architecture and nature.


Serpentine Pavilion ©Iwan Baan

The Pavilion is not planned with any specific function, but in a state of “inaction”, so people may decide how to use it as they like. Here the boundary between the interior and exterior is redefined and blurred. The Pavilion is like a cloud with no fixed shape, while people can experience outside, inside, or in the middle of the cloud, and interpret the relationship between interior and exterior.

Though seemingly simple, the Pavilion has its own complexity. It makes a balance and choice between simplicity and complexity, inspiring people to reconsider architecture and nature.


Serpentine Pavilion ©Iwan Baan

Society is always complex, but at the same time we want life to be simple. So we always want to balance. The same is true for nature and architecture. If you have grasped technology with one hand, then you will reach more humanistic things, more natural things, with the other hand. It’s human nature.

I feel very optimistic about the future of technology. We should understand that every coin has two sides. If our technology becomes more and more diversified, we need to emphasize the positive side of the technology.


Serpentine Pavilion ©Iwan Baan

In the old days, natural environment and green space were very primitive, and just came very naturally. But today, nature has a brand new attribute that is different from a hundred years ago, which is bestowed by the technology. Technological innovation will redefine everything, enabling us to reshape nature, address the complexity of nature, and create a better living environment.

Instead of treating technology as technology itself, we should consider that technology brings about the possibility of creation. Nature is part of technology, and even technology is part of nature even.


Serpentine Pavilion ©Iwan Baan

Other Works

©Daici Ano

Musashino Art University Museum & Library

Tokyo, Japan 2010

This project is an ideal library entirely made from bookshelves. An infinite forest of books is created from the layering of 9m high walls, rising on the university landscape. Logically planned retrieval access is combined with discovery walk path. This spiral sequence of the bookshelf continues, eventually wrapping the periphery of the site as the external wall. This building integrates two obvious contradictory elements: coexistence of exploration and retrieval, and coexistence of circular and linear circulations.

©Iwan Baan

L'Arbre Blanc

Montpellier, France 2019

L’Arbre Blanc, a mixed-use tower, is located between the downtown area and newly developed areas Port Marianne and Odysseum, i.e. between the “old” and “new” Montpellier. The project includes residence, restaurant, art gallery, office, panoramic bar and public spaces.

Appearing like a “white tree”, the building incorporates the characteristics of Mediterranean region and Japanese culture. The boundary between the interior and the balcony is blurred, while the unique and generous exterior space can be used as a complete living space. The interior and exterior work together to form a dense and breathable interface. The building, just like a tree, leverages on local natural resources to significantly cut the energy demand.

©Sou Fujimoto Architects

Forest of Music

Budapest, Hungary, to be completed

This project at the core of Budapest City Park is planned not only as a museum, but also a symbol that represents a vision embracing the past and the future, human beings and culture, nature and music science.

No specific tour routes are defined for the museum. Pedestrians can walk around freely, just like wandering in a park. The traces of pedestrian activity are like continuous water penetrating into the space, while its intensity varies as time goes by. It’s also like sound penetrating through the space, jumping on the surface, and running along the wall. This is a natural landscape full of sense of time and history, and mixed with a subtle wildness varying as the seasons change.

©Sou Fujimoto Architects

Calma Museum for Architecture + Residences

Laguna, Philippines, to be completed

Inspired by the unique nature and lifestyle of the region, the designer aims to create an iconic vertical artificial landscape to integrate mountains, terraces and caves. When walking through the buildings, people are embraced by a coherent spatial rhythm, while their views constantly alternate between the interior and exterior.

The whole building is made up of grids of the same scale. While forming internal space, the grid units also form terraces, gardens and other activity spaces. This vertical grid landscape embraces both simplicity and complexity, and blurs the boundary between the interior and exterior. The structure, living space, daylight, nature and activities are integrated, realizing harmony with the urban context and local climate. 


Mille Arbres

Paris, France, to be completed

The project creates a “park”. It will become an important health care building in the area and establish a soft connection between Paris and its suburbs. Housing and nature are blended together, with wind blowing through the woods, and sunlight penetrating through the leaves. Here one can have a distant view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

The designer has developed a strategy to integrate and optimize the conflicting elements of the site in a mixed and complicated way. The project is reversible and flexible. The offices can be transformed into houses, and hotels can be renovated into offices or residence, to adapt to the future changes. This approach well responds to one of the biggest challenges facing this generation.

Edited / proofread by: Cui Jing



THEME | Urban Interactions

MAIN VENUE | Futian Railway Station & Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning

SUB-VENUE | Sha Tau Kok Bonded Zone of Yantian District, Bao'an International Art Exhibition Center, Qiaotou Community of Bao’ao District, Ban Xue Gang Hi-Tech Zone of Longgang District, Guanlan Ancient Market of Longgang District, Guangming Cloud Valley, Dapeng Fortress of Dapeng New District, Xichong of Dapeng New District, and Qianhai Cooperation Zone