Burial mounds from 1,500 years ago seem like an unlikely inspiration for CoFuFun, a contemporary plaza and playground, but Japanese designers with Nendo found a way to translate the spiral forms of an ancient Kofun into a place that encourages joyful exploration in Tenri, a small city in Nara prefecture.
The 6,000-square-meter (64,000-square-feet) plaza next to a train station includes a meeting space, events stage, playground, information kiosk, and cafe and shops. According to Nendo, which outlined their project in ArchDaily, the goal is to “encourage community revitalization” by creating a hub for both tourists visiting and locals commuting.
Tenri has a number of ancient Kofun, which are “beautiful and unmistakable, but blend into the spaces of everyday life in the city.”
Nendo placed Kofun-inspired forms throughout the plaza landscape, which is itself modeled after the Nara basin in which Tenri sits, a space surrounded by mountains. Here, the Kofun are bright-white, a color that symbolizes purity and truth, but is also associated with mourning.
Kofun are key-shaped mounds with levels, like the ancient zigurrats of Mesopotamia or the step pyramids of the Maya. Using the terraced Kofun as a model, Nendo used the forms to create stairs, benches, fences, roofs, and shelves.
The designers ingeniously incorporate activities into the Kofun forms: one convex center enables kids to run around in circles until they are dizzy while protected by a fence; one provides the foundation for a giant trampoline; and the interior of another hosts the cafe and shop.
The plaza creates a sense of flow for visitors who can move seamlessly from one use to another. This is because it’s “an ‘ambiguous’ space that’s a cafe, playground, and massive piece of furniture all at once.”
The plaza name — CoFuFun — incorporates “fufun,” which in Japanese means “happy, unconscious humming.” Co-” refers to cooperation and community. The name works in both Japanese and English. Hopefully, they can find a way to keep the white forms bright.