Nest We Grow is the ‘productive garden’ through which the University of California at Berkeley pays tribute to the Japanese agricultural landscape.
The Japanese architectural firm of Kengo Kuma and a team of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design graduate students, comprised of two Taiwanese, two Chinese, and two American, sought to examine what structural and material elements they could combine to create this community and food oriented space. The team recognized how modest materials and actions are celebrated in Berkeley and wanted to explore their implications in Asia.
The initial research started with techniques that can be found readily in California, including rammed-earth walls and straw bale construction. The project team presented these ideas in pursuit of a building that would introduce renewable building techniques to an area of Japan that could take advantage of these concepts. What they found was an appreciation for the difficulty of applying transnational technology in a new environment.
They also focused on a heavy timber construction technique coming from the US, which uses large sections of wood. In Japan this translated to the composite column, which uses smaller pieces of wood to generate a larger column. It took considerable effort to identify a way to join materials, which was influenced by both local carpentry practices and the Japanese material market. The project team was also under a considerable time constraint with the entire building process taking only six months to complete.
The wood frame structure mimics the vertical spatial experience of a Japanese larch forest from which food is hung to grow and dry. A tea platform in the middle of the Nest creates a gathering space where the community can visually and physically enjoy food around a sunken fireplace. Planters are integrated into the floor of the tea room, in which vines are planted. Hemp rope that will be installed in the future will guide these vines vertically up into the Nest creating a green membrane that wraps the tea space.