The Japanese designer Oki Sato is known for producing a tremendous amount of work each year—from design objects to lifestyle products to exhibitions—through his design studio, Nendo. Now, Sato and his 30- person team are increasing not only the quantity, but also the scale of their work. In its first foray into urban planning, Nendo has designed a massive public plaza near Kyoto, with a stage, park, bike rental station, and jungle gym housed in a series of stepped saucers reassembling local topography.
The plaza’s name, CoFuFun, alludes to the 2,000-year-old Japanese tombs that pepper the urban landscape around Tenri Station in the Nara prefecture, where the plaza is located. Known as cofun, or kofun, these monolithic tombs look like keyholes from a bird’s-eye view, with one square end and one circular end. Above ground, the cofun are comprised of a mound of earth cut into stepped levels. Beneath the circular end, a funeral chamber houses a number of megaliths. The tombs were largely constructed between the 3rd century and the early 7th century AD, and their proliferation is associated with the expansion of the Japanese Imperial court, which ruled from modern-day Nara during the Yamato period.