Kengo Kuma and Associates, a world-renowned Japanese architecture firm, recently completed the Kusugibashi Bridge in Osogoe, Shuto Town, Iwakuni City in Japan. The bridge is a replacement for the old overpass that was destroyed by the Western Japan Flood in 2018. The new, parametric wood bridge blends modern design with traditional methods and locally-sourced materials. Additionally, this new piece of infrastructure will serve as an attraction and symbolize the local community.
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To prevent natural phenomena-induced damage in the future, the structure is made from a reinforced concrete frame with 105-square cypress balustrades. This material was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, it is the most common size for wood members in Japanese wood construction. Secondly, it is perfectly sized to the human scale. The wood slats are interlaced to create two curving forms that outline the contour of the roads. Moreover, this curvature also echoes the undulating topography of the nearby mountain range.
The bridge joins two parallel streets along the Higashi river and connects the local “Dassai” brewery and store. Dassai is a type of sake that is produced by the Asahi-Shuzo brewery and the company is well-known for its unique sake. As a commitment to the community, the Asahi-Shuzo brewery donated money to fully fund the construction of the structure’s intricate bridge facade made from local cypress wood.
Furthermore, the Kengo Kuma and Associates team designed the bridge to blend traditional Japanese carpentry with modern computational design technology. In doing so, the design has a delicate, contemporary feel, yet creates a connection to the local context. Additionally, this unique approach to the construction creates an elegant structure by balancing vernacular and modern methods. The incredible carpentry skills of the Japanese craftsmen enhance the parametric, spine-like qualities of the bridge. This blend of aesthetic qualities is carefully curated and allows the structure to be embraced in the local context.
Overall, the Kusugibashi Bridge’s meticulous design connects traditional Japanese construction with advanced modern technology. The result is an elegant structure that will serve as a symbol of identity for the small town.
Photography by Katsumasa Tanaka