Emilio Ambasz and the ACROS centre in Fukuoka 25 years later

The powerful building designed by Emilio Ambasz – whose images continue to travel around the world – is the result of innovative research and vision that began forty years ago. An intuition that has deeply influenced the world of design in every latitude of the planet, inspiring and opening the way to a new architecture based on the coexistence of architecture and nature.
The project, which won the prestigious American Institute of Architects’ Business Week/Architectural Record Award and the first prize of the Japanese Institute of Architecture, is based on the concept of ‘green above grey’ and is the result of the architect’s desire to give back to the community all the land on which the building stands.
The 14 large terraced gardens that characterize the structure, rhythmed by pools and waterways – as well as the panoramic rooftop viewpoint offering a breathtaking view of the port and the city’s surroundings – are, in fact, open to the public, as is the land in front: “The building – says Ambasz – is in the centre of a city that had a 2-hectare square and still has a 2-hectare square“.
It is a work that has strongly influenced some of the most famous names in contemporary architecture, from Renzo Piano to Jean Nouvel, to Tadao Ando who said about ACROS in Fuokuoka: “I believe that there is no precedent in which nature dominates architectural creation with such power and charm […] Emilio Ambasz taught us to see a dimension in which nature and architecture are inseparable, a realm that goes from nature created by God to that forged by man“.
The ACROS centre – an acronym for Asian CrossRoad Over the Sea – according to Ambasz is proof that “the dominant concept that ‘cities are for buildings and suburbs are for parks’ is a mistake. It’s obvious to relegate greenery to the suburbs, leaving grey in the city: it’s an idea that totally lacks imagination”: inside urban centres with a high residential intensity, the interests of the client, the need for new buildings and the need for open and public green spaces can be reconciled.
ACROS has gone even further, allowing a large urban structure to exist symbiotically with the priceless resource of open public space. A symbiosis also certified by a survey of the thermal environment conducted by Takenaka Corporation, Kyushu University and Nippon Institute of Technology, according to which the construction of Ambasz contributes significantly to the reduction of the surrounding heat island, contributes to the reduction of energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and ensures in hot seasons a difference of 15° C between the outside and the inside of the prodigious pyramid.
An interior that covers over 97 thousand square meters of multipurpose spaces with exhibition hall, museum, 2000 seats theatre, congress halls, government and private offices, cultural information centre for tourists, commercial spaces and 4 underground levels, making it a real reference point for citizens and visitors.
Emilio Ambasz, prophet, poet and pioneer of green architecture since the 1970s, is still today a point of reference for his innovative thinking, bearer of a pact of mending between nature and construction: “Every construction constitutes an intrusion into the plant kingdom, and is a challenge to nature: we must conceive an architecture that stands as the embodiment of a pact of reconciliation between nature and construction, designing buildings so intrinsically linked to the surrounding landscape that it is impossible for them to disengage from each other“.
At the inauguration of the ACROS centre in Fukuoka, now the city’s landmark, there were 76 plant varieties and 37,000 plants. The expected natural development of the green pyramid, driven by the strength of biodiversity, means that today there are 120 varieties and 50,000 plants.
Forerunner of the latest green architecture and inspirer of their current fortune, Emilio Ambasz says, “Seeing many others use plant matter in their projects makes me realize that my mission is beginning to bear fruit. Hearing some of them claim the authorship of these ideas makes me feel like a mythological character, but I know that it is only the case of a Freudian destiny announced“.