Agricultural Research Center
The strips’ most apparent feature is its artificial landscape. The terraced rice paddies are a relict of the prefecture’s agriculture prominence during the industrial revolution whereas today, most of them are no longer looked after. The site does not have particularly endangered areas, due to the fact that the dam Hyakkenzutsumi keeps the river from overflowing and therefore prevents landslides. The rice paddies act as a natural flood prevention system and retain superfluous water. Whereas in other areas around the lake landslides and flooding might be a immediate threat, in the region around Hira Station humans might be the actual threat. Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan and is incredibly important for the surround populations. both in urban and rural areas. Which is why the conscious use of the water for agricultural purposes is of utmost importance. A detrimental effect can be shown by the example of the Aral Sea, which within few years shrunk enourmously, due to use of water for agricultural agrigation.
In oder to reverse migration to the cities, a promising strategy is to relocate infrastructure and facilities to a rural area. Whilst the rice fields were straightened to accommodate the new machines during the industrial revolution, the new Agricultural Research Center provides smaller testing fields, to encourage the analytic approach of observing various crops in different conditions. The center provides laboratory spaces, a library as well as a recreational space and an auditorium. However, it does not include any dormitories nor extensive cafeteria in order to encourage people to repopulate the area as well as local restaurants.
The design is inspired by the tunnel system of a mole, digging horizontally in the ground, creating various caves that serve different purposes. The „mogura“ strategy scoops earth aside, hence having a visual impact on the surface. Accordingly, the design is immersed in the terrain, stretching horizontally within the terraced fields. From the central walkway, connecting courtyards branch off, forming places and niches. What is more, the low buildings do not cast a huge shadow, that would impact the growth of the plants. Analogue to the mole, the excavated earth serves directly as building material. The walls facing the ground consist of rammed-earth. The width always depends on the height of the excavation, in order to ensure stability. As a result, the visitor can always relate to the surrounding landscape. For the reason that the same rule is applied to all buildings such as construction and height, the terraced artificial landscape creates various situations that transform the conception of space.