ACROS Fukuoka – Japan’s amazing green pyramid

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Did you know that ACROS Fukuoka, a multipurpose hall, has been pioneering in terms of green buildings? While today everyone talks about vertical gardens, like Milan’s recently built “Bosco Verticale”, the southern Japanese metropolis was ahead of its time, when starting plans to give its citizens additional green space in the city’s heart.

What to expect in this article

About Fukuoka

Japan’s biggest southern city, Fukuoka, counts nearly 2 Million inhabitants. While it has one of the highest growths among Japanese cities, its population is rather young compared to the countrywide demographic trend.

So, it’s not surprising that Kyushu’s capital city has a mayor for 10 years, who started his leading role at the age of 36. That being said, Fukuoka works differently than the other metropolises in Japan. This may be the reason why Fukuoka pretty much kicked-off with the trend of building spectacular buildings with vertical gardens – the ACROS Fukuoka.

My first Thoughts when confronting ACROS Fukuoka

Since my first and only visit to Fukuoka, some years have already been passed. However, I haven’t forgot the feeling when leaving Tenjin’s busy shopping avenues, while heading towards Hakata. On this way, one of Fukuoka’s spectacular landmarks hit me with excitement, joy and consternation.

Until today I haven’t seen any pyramids other than ACROS Fukuoka. Sure, it’s not a classical one. However, its stepping layout towards Tenjin Park reminded me of such back then. In addition to that, seeing the amount of nature located on such a building felt like a new architectural era had begun.

Bear in mind that buildings like “Bosco Verticale” in Milan weren’t yet completed back then. Moreover, I felt angry that I hadn’t seen these kind of innovative buildings in Europe.

Long story short, ACROS Fukuoka blew my mind.

ACROS Fukuoka’s Step Garden to Heaven

Let me explain to you, why ACROS Fukuoka is that awesome.

The Story about how ACROS Fukuoka became actually a Green Pyramid

Tenjin Koen, a rather compact urban park within the city core, was a possible candidate for a new real estate redevelopment project. The population was afraid of losing one of the very few green spaces within the dense and packed Tenjin district, resulting into protests.

Thus, officials behind the project had to rethink their plans and make it adapting more to the park and desire for more green space within Fukuoka’s Centre. This gave an excellent opportunity to an architect, who is an expert for harmonizing buildings with nature and its environment – Emilio Ambasz.

The Argentinian architect won the competition in 1990 and the rest is history. Well, until it opened to the public.

ACROS Fukuoka celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2020

In 1995 ACROS Fukuoka opened to the public. Since then, all the vegetation of its step gardens developed immensely. Japan’s green pyramid counts 14 stepped terraces. While the fact of having so much nature on a buildings’ roof sounds exciting, wait for the real highlight.

You can access every single of these 14 terraces!

ACROS, which stands for Asian Cross Roads Over the Sea, connects its terraces with stairways. This means that you can literally climb a pyramid! How amazing is that?

Furthermore, there is an artificial waterfall installed over all these levels. That’s definitely what I call a step garden to heaven.

You know what? I didn’t know all of that back then when I stood in front of this green landmark. Hence, I missed my walk through this marvellous step garden. I still feel the painful regret deep inside my chest. The same counts also for the inside.

The inside of ACROS Fukuoka

ACROS Fukuoka is a multipurpose building, which is also home of the Prefectural International Hall. Moreover, the Fukuoka Symphony Hall and many other stores are located inside the structure.

If you visit it, please go inside and admire the great atrium in the foyer. It’s over 12 floors high and quite a contrast to the outside green roofs but still beautiful.

The surrounding area

In contrast to its step garden, ACROS Fukuoka’s other three facades look like a classy 90s office building. Glassy, looking sharp and reflecting its neighbourhood. While the north, west and east side are being surrounded by urban areas, the east side still has a river arm of the Naka River passing by.

On the other hand, the south side is facing the already mentioned Tenjin Central Park. There you can chill or picnic on its lawn and admire the green pyramid from a distanced perspective.

Last but not least, you also encounter a ruin of pillars surrounded by water southside. While they look like remnants of an ancient building from Roman or Greek ages, these pillars are surprisingly parts of the former prefectural hall.

When to go there

As you can surely deviate from my pictures, I visited ACROS Fukuoka during fall. Due to the fact that Fukuoka and the rest of Kyushu have a mild climate in autumn, the colourful spectacle hits later than in the rest of Japan (except for Okinawa & Co.). I took these pictures in the end of November and some trees still had a bunch of green leaves.

If you like cherry blossoms and Hanami Season, you should consider visiting ACROS Fukuoka around the late half of March. There are some cherry trees located right in front of the green pyramid, making it a beautiful spring sight.

Other than that, you get it green or less so.

How to reach ACROS Fukuoka

ACROS Fukuoka can be reached by public transportation from these stations:

  • Tenjin Minami Subway Station – 5 minutes by foot
  • Tenjin 4-chome  Bus Stop – 4 minutes by foot
  • Nishitetsu Fukuoka Tenjin Train Station – 8 minutes by foot
  • Or from this ferry terminal right at the riverbank of Naka River -5 minutes by foot

Conclusion

Bearing in mind that ACROS Fukuoka was initially planned in 1990 and completed five years later, I’d count it as one of the initial masterpieces of the green buildings’ trend. It’s a landmark for the population, visitors and the natural soul of Fukuoka. The fact that the step garden is completely accessible to the public, makes ACROS Fukuoka a success in urban development.

If I look at my birthplace, Dusseldorf, where a department store gets celebrated for its biggest green facade in Europe, I have to smile and smirk at the same time. Why? Because 25 years have passed since ACROS Fukuoka opened and the “KII” (also known as Kö Bogen 2 and Ingenhovental) is simply a half-baked European attempt of creating a green landmark. There’ll be no access to its step garden. Somehow a missed chance. Criticism aside, the “KII” is still a great green building atafter all.

Is ACROS Fukuoka a choice maker for the capital city of Kyushu against the more popular Japanese cities besides Tokyo? It definitely is, if you like this sort of green architecture a lot. Moreover, there are additional reasons and magnets for visiting Fukuoka. Stay tuned.

For further information about ACROS Fukuoka please visit their official web page here.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Fukuoka is one of my top cities in Japan to visit if I ever get there once. You know why? Just intention! But this review about ACROS just lines up with this idea about visiting that town. Interesting story behind the building which seems to hide some unexpecting golden moments. Besides the view of it, I really like the symbolism. In general, I do enjoy pyramid-shaped buildings as they always had a human connecting power in history. Some kind of spirituality if you will. At ACROS you will find exactly the same thought behind climbing those steps.

    A beautiful and special building, nice place, great city – Thanks for sharing your experience there!

    • Cheers Joe and Happy New Year!

      You can’t imagine how much I enjoyed reading your reaction to my article.
      The fact that Fukuoka is on your bucket list for a potential Japan trip made my jaw drop.
      You also nailed the symbolism on ACROS.

      Thanks again, Joe!
      Cheers,
      Fabiano

  2. What an amazing building. I have never even heard of the city before and love how the Japanese seem to be very much ahead of everybody else, also in terms of architecture. The building doesn’t seem so old to me. It would probably be praised just as much if it were build today. Thank you for the sharing, great article again!

    • Cheers, Timo and Happy New Year!

      Haha I’m happy to read you liked ACROS. Now, even Fukuoka is on your radar,
      which I praise a lot. Thank you so much for your great reaction, Timo.

      Cheers,
      Fabiano

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