Yoshio Nakamura - Biography

Portrait of Yoshio Nakamura
Yoshio Nakamura. © 2009
Yoshio Nakamura was born in 1938 in Tokyo, and his family moved to a small local city 60km north at his age of 5 in order to avoid the air raid. 10 years of country life in this town surrounded by wet land allowed him to learn diversified characters of the environment and developed a rich imagination of nature. 40 years later, he was to devote himself to the construction of the Park of Koga nearby his infancy house.

After graduating from the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Tokyo, his engineer career was launched in 1963 in the Tokyo-Nagoya Expressway project when he was employed at the Japan Highway Public Cooperation. He started to be influenced by German modernist design language, and became convinced of a new world of landscape architecture beyond the enclosure of traditional Japanese garden. In 1965, he returned to the University of Tokyo to continue landscape research on public works and to introduce landscape design into civil engineering. Benefiting from his enthusiastic colleagues and students, his research of highway landscape was expanded into wider range of engineering works, including bridges, dams and embankments, ports and coastal management. After publishing his first book, Designing Infrastructures, which explores a semiotic approach to landscape, he went to Paris to pursue doctoral studies in 1967. In 1973, he presented his doctoral dissertation, Theoretical Approach to Perspective Image of Highway Alignment.

In 1976, Nakamura joined Tokyo Institute of Technology to teach at the new interdisciplinary department of Social Engineering. Meanwhile, he adopted his theory in practice, worked on projects such as the Haneda Airport Esplanade and Hiroshima Nishi Bridge. Otagawa River Embankment is one of the most notable projects, and it has stimulated the city of Hiroshima to sponsor a series of urban parks along the river. Meanwhile, he promoted awareness of landscape among his fellow engineers through the Japan Society of Civil Engineers. In 1985, he was invited to the University of Paris to give a series of lectures, and made acquaintances with the French landscape group among which Augustin Berque, Michel Conan, Bernard Lassus, Jean-Robert Pitte. The Otagawa River Embankment project lasted from 1979 to 1997, and Nakamura grew more and more convinced of the importance of tactility, human scale and social interaction in contemporary landscape design through the design process. Taking references of his iconographic analysis of traditional waterfront in landscape paintings and prints, as well as the theories of John Dewey, J. J. Gibson and J. V. Uexkull, he developed a theory of "aquaphilia symbols" and incorporated the elements in his design practice of user-friendly waterfront.

The Park of Koga was built in 1988. After the completion of the construction, Nakamura continued to be involved with activities and management in the park even after he moved to the University of Kyoto in 1998. During the 4 years residence in Kyoto, his view on Japanese classic garden was more or less changed after finding the fact that in opposition to general understandings certain aristocratic villas were arranged insistently as to be melted in natural landscape context without being segregated in enclosed garden. He was thus convinced that contemporary designers must seek according to this tradition the possibility of landscape design in larger scale instead of artistic virtual garden.

In this later period up to the present, his concern tends to be inclined on people's involvement. People's imagination is expected to create a infinite series of images of place as expansions of designer's creativity as well as inheriting past collective representations. Rice paddy club, plum harvest festival and also grove club are so organized as to encourage people to find customized and tangible landscape. These ideas may stem from my own infancy memory nursed hereby.

In 2002, he retired and stressed his activities on writing books although still involved in management of Koga Park and others. He published a book entitled 'A Story of Wetland Resurrection' describing a design philosophy and design process of the Park of Koga. This starts from description of author's infancy memory of surrounding wet land which disappeared one after another.

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