The master plan for the station plaza at Tenri Station in Nara prefecture, located near Kyoto in the western region of Japan. The plan for the 6000 square meter area includes bicycle rentals, a cafe and other shops, an information kiosk, a play area, outdoor stage, and meeting space. The project goal was to encourage local community revitalisation by providing a space for events, tourist information dissemination and leisure facilities for local residents.
Tenri’s urban boundaries include a number of ancient Japanese tombs, known as “cofun”. The cofun are beautiful and unmistakeable, but blend into the spaces of everyday life in the city. The plaza’s landscape, richly punctuated by several of these cofun, is a representation of the area’s characteristic geography: the Nara Basin, surrounded on all sides by mountains. The construction technique used to create the plaza’s round cofun structures consisted of fitting together pieces of a precast concrete mould resembling a huge pizza. Because precast concrete moulds are formed at the factory and then assembled onsite, the resulting structures are precise and the same mould can be used multiple times, ensuring excellent cost-performance. The pre-formed parts are pieced together like building blocks using the same massive cranes used to build bridges. Large spaces can be formed without the use of columns or beams, and because of the round shape the well-balanced structures offer stability against forces applied from any direction.
The plaza’s name, CoFuFun, combines the main design motif, the cofun, with colloquial Japanese expressions. “Fufun” refers to happy, unconscious humming: the design for the plaza should offer convivial atmosphere that unconsciously leads visitors to hum, happily, while they’re there. The alphabet spelling, “CoFuFun”, also brings in the “co-“ of “cooperation” and “community”, as well as – of course – “fun” itself. The result is a name whose Japanese and alphabet spellings mean similar things, so that foreign visitors to the plaza will understand it in the same way, too.