top of page



kodaiandassociates & Otis Landscape Associates

Chalk Garden in Royal Botanic Garden, Kew

  kodai and associates & Otis Landscape Associates were commissioned by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London, to create "Chalk Garden" at the Japan Horticultural Festival 2021- a festival to promote cultural exchange between Japan and the UK through nature and garden culture. The garden is located in the North Octagon block, an octagonal greenhouse attached to the north side of the main block of Kew's Temperate House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built-in 1862.


English - Japanese Garden

  The garden was designed and installed to reflect our contemporary ideas on gardens and spaces through expressing the beauty of the ground and plants in a historic building context, using representative subsoil material in Britain “chalk” and Japanese plants that are available in the UK. It intends to create an experience that would encourage people to think about how they relate to the environment represented in the garden. The English garden and the Japanese garden are different in many ways, but we share a common principle of celebrating the beauty of plants, where the design explores the appeal of the garden cultures of both countries.

Temperate House North Octagon

  The Temperate House is the second oldest greenhouse in Kew Gardens, dating from the Victorian era, and is a precursor of modern glass and steel architecture. The Chalk Garden is located in the North Octagon, where you pass through as you move from the main block to the North block. It represents the feeling of oneself walking through the dense jungle-like garden - The Main Block- and finding themselves in a space where the space opens up to resemble a pocket of space in jungle woods -The North Octagon.

  The space is filled with plants and white chalkstones, and the garden is mainly composed of chalk fields, ridges, and plant islands, respecting uniformity and symmetry. In particular, chalkstones from Chalk Cliffs in Sussex, southern England, were used, playing an important role as an element to connect the English identity with the Japanese garden.

Chalk cliff copy.jpg

Chalk cliff of Seven Sisters in Sussex, United Kingdom

Chalk and Plants

The chalk that makes up the field is a prehistoric sedimentary layer, made up of shellfish and plankton, and within the mass of chalk contains rubble of flint, a black impurity made up of insect and animal carcasses. This field made up of chalk represents the fact that the ground we operate on in the UK is made up of deposits of past organisms, and shows the relationship between our modern society and prehistoric times.

Kew Garden_Chalk Garden_12.jpg

Chalk Stone and Flint

Space and Ma

The "chalk ridges" are a series of large chalk rock lines placed diagonally as ridges along with the structure of an octagonal building built according to the rules of Western classical architecture, creating a field of "Space" and “Ma” (Japanese terminology to represent a sense of space and distance). In addition, the diagonal ridges serve to change the direction of the front of the garden depending on the direction of entry to the building.


Island of Plants

The "island of plants" on the field celebrates the beauty and richness of plants, using ferns and horse chestnuts, which have been ubiquitous on the earth since prehistoric times, along with Japanese black bamboos, maples, Hakone grasses, Japanese daisies, and fuchsias, which are alien to the UK. The planting composition is fluid, spreading vertically and horizontally.

Kew Garden_Chalk Garden_15.jpg
Kew Garden Chalk Garden with acer tree in surrounding stone garden

View Corridors and Point of Focus

  The series of islands and overlaps of tall, thin black bamboos and ferns serve to create a "view corridor" and a "screen" for the changing gaze as you walk. Inside the eight pillars is a space surrounded by bamboo, and Irish moss is used around the maple trees that catch the eye to create a lush scene. The field of chalk is divided into two parts within the octagon space, and one side of the chalk is used to create a Japanese garden with red maple trees in front of it, while the other side is used to create a garden landscape with green maple trees and a water table in front of it. Standing in the centre of the space and looking back, one can observe the duality of the garden and appreciate the two different views within a short distance.


Collaborative Approach

  The chalkstones and the selected plants are like an anchor for the story of the garden planting composition and we tried to take the Japanese and British cultural backgrounds behind them and express them in a new way as an element to develop the design. While the barriers between professionals such as architects, engineers, and landscape architects are getting higher and higher today, as an architect working alongside a landscape specialist, we were able to jump over those barriers to design a garden and realize the opportunity to not only experience the space and environment of the garden as visual beauty but also to stop and contemplate its existence.


  Chalk Garden" has been viewed by tens of thousands of visitors, and we are honored that many have taken home their personal thoughts and feelings through their perceptive senses.


The Daily Telegraph,  by Ambra Edwards,  9th October 2021

NIWA Magazine,  2022 Summer

Royal Botanic Garden, Kew

Temperate House, North Octagon 


More than twice the size of the Palm House, the Temperate House covers 4,880 square metres, has a staggering 15,000 panes of glass and is 19 metres high at its tallest point. The Grade I listed building was designed by Decimus Burton, who also designed our Palm House. The Temperate House took several decades to build, from 1862 to 1899, and first opened in 1863 only three-quarters complete. Once the largest glasshouse in the world, the Temperate House was originally created to house frost-tender plants.

Right top: Main Block

Right bottom: North Octagon

Temperate House.jpg
North Octagon Exterior.jpg


Garden Project


Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, United Kingdom


Completed in October 2021


kodaiandassociates & Otis Landscape Associates 


The Pot Company: Water feature


Tatsuya Shirai, Harrison Landscape


The Daily Telegraph

Why you will get garden envy after visiting the Japanese garden at Kew. by Ambra Edwards 

=> link


Embassy of Japan in the UK

Ambassador & Madame Hayashi’s attendance at the opening of “Japan” festival at Kew Gardens

=> link

Lexus UK Magazine

Kew Gardens celebrates autumn with ‘Japan’ festival

=> link

London Unattached

Japan festival at Kew Gardens Review 

=> link

bottom of page