Gate City Osaki

tokyo, japan

client: mitsui fudosan


“I do sculpture as it relates to my designs, and as the sculpture emerges from the designs it becomes collaborative. This is gratifying because the sculpture is very much in keeping with the overall landscaping concept. It is not an afterthought,” writes Tom Balsley. Here we see the full integration of his sculptural expression in the overall landscape design for Gate City. Each swooping, spiraling, surging forest of steel brings a deeper meaning to the experience.

The challenge for this mixed-use development on the outskirts of Tokyo was to create two spaces, each with its own ambience, that still function together while giving the complex an unmistakable identity. The South Entry Plaza had to alert visitors that they were crossing a threshold into somewhere special. This affect is achieved with a grid of poplars, planted with military precision, and slashed through with a diagonal path and channels of water. The gesture is simple, yet arresting. Expectations are upturned: it’s the manmade sculpture of bright orange columns that tilt at dynamic angles, while the trees provide order.

This striking urban plaza is regularly featured on Japanese TV: it has such a powerful sense of place that its bold, colorful forms are nationally recognizable. The play of precision and whimsy continues in the North Garden, the social arena. Its terraces, punctuated with lines of water, lawn panels, and light, provide relief from the surrounding architecture. Three towering sculpture follies, each inspired by a plant -- purple phragmites, chartreuse carex and an occupiable calla lily -- provide sheltered vantage points while expressing the garden in architectural form. Closer to the atrium, large paved areas accommodate event seating and the cafe tables. At night, light refracted from the frosted glass building illuminates the water channels and pool, providing a memorable foreground silhouette. The poplars trees and stone monoliths are up-lit, stone benches appear to float above a cloud of light, while an exact grid of blue lights in the planters echoes the symmetry of the trees.