Heatherwick Studio’s Azabudai Hills: A Green Haven in Tokyo

Heatherwick Studio has recently completed Azabudai Hills, a fresh urban district situated in the bustling center of Tokyo. The new community is a blend of housing units, commercial areas, an educational institution, two places of worship, art exhibits, corporate spaces, and dining establishments, all situated in a 2.4-hectare verdant, open-to-all environment.

Heatherwick Studio spearheads the development of the public spaces and the podium-level edifices. The layout fosters meaningful interactions among commuters, locals, and visitors, and the 8.1-hectare vicinity boasts of lush foliage, blooming flora, and water installations. Winding pathways and accessible rooftop inclines encourage exploration and casual gatherings.

“We were inspired to create a district that connects with people’s emotions differently,” told Thomas Heatherwick to design. “By combining cultural and social facilities with an extraordinary three-dimensional, explorable, landscape, it’s been possible to offer visitors and the local community somewhere to connect and enjoy open green public spaces. This is a joyful and unique public place for Tokyo, designed to be cherished for many years.”

Azabudai Hills, Tokyo, JP / Heatherwick Studio

Tokyo is a juxtaposition of old and new architecture, with large and small buildings pressed up against each other. The design celebrates this rich mixture of layers and all the variety and intensity of the city. Residents and visitors can come together and be inspired by a new landscape that includes extensive public gardens, a central square, and The Cloud event space. It is now one of Tokyo’s greenest urban areas and continues Mori Building Company’s commitment to creating garden cities where the landscape simultaneously supports nature and people.

Azabudai Hills, Tokyo, JP / Heatherwick Studio

Throughout the thirty-year regeneration of this site, Mori Building Co. collaborated with over 300 residents and businesses to bring the district to life. Over 90% of the original tenants and businesses have now chosen to return to the new district.

Azabudai Hills, Tokyo, JP / Heatherwick Studio

As part of the development, Heatherwick Studio has designed its first school, The British School of Tokyo. At 15,000 sqm, this is the largest international school in the heart of the city. The design takes full advantage of the local climate with a seamless flow of outdoor learning and recreational spaces spread across eight levels, where students and teachers can enjoy working.

Azabudai Hills, Tokyo, JP / Heatherwick Studio

“Over the last 10 years, we have tried to get under the skin of what makes something distinctively Tokyo, whilst at the same time adding something new that’s fresh and soft to its modern built environment,” says Neil Hubbard, Partner and Group Leader at Heatherwick Studio. “We wanted to create vistas full of variety and intrigue and spaces to explore. It’s a confluence of different families of design all brought together in one place. I can’t wait to watch people explore it.”

Azabudai Hills, Tokyo, JP / Heatherwick Studio

An estimated twenty-five to thirty million people will visit this new public district every year. Moreover, Azabudai Hills is also on track to becoming one of the largest sites to receive the preliminary WELL certification, the highest-level LEED Neighbourhood Development certification for mixed-use developments, and LEED’s BD+C certification.

Images courtesy of Raquel Diniz and Kenji MASUNAGA