Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Landscape Design

Kenzo Tange’s Peach Memorial Park proposal was first seen at a design competition held in 1949. The proposal consisted of a centric design that used the A-Bomb Dome as the core point. From the centre, he introduced east-west and north-south axes intercepting at the centre. These axes stretched across the landscape to reach multiple structures and destinations. It was an attempt to use this park to forge a connection between the park, architectures, and city. Along these lines, there were many important structures introduced as a representation or symbol of peace.

Hidden among all of these important figures and concept, the landscape design played a major role in harmonizing the connected parts together. Tange strategically positioned the trees in which was implemented into the overall design quality.

The landscape proposal was divided into 2 parts, 1949 to 1955 and 1970. The second part of the proposal happened under the name of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park Improved Program due to the insufficient structures maintenance and structures ageing since the completion of the first part.

Figure 1. Tange, Kenzo. Prizewinning Proposal for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Model. 1949. Photograph.

In the 1949 to 1955 proposal, the initial plan used the crossing axes to concentrate the movement of the visitors. Multiple landmarks were spread on the lines, however, the landscape design was not yet implemented on this stage. Later, according to the proposed model, there were 2 types of trees arrangement, north-south and east-west. This seems to be an attempt to reciprocate with the overall city plan. The first arrangement, north-south, formed an hourglass-shaped area along the continuous vertical axis. In contrast, the second arrangement obeyed the curved paths and arrayed the trees along.

Tange’s insisted that there should be no use of a cheap gimmick to embrace the landmarks with the relaxing atmosphere of nature. On the proposal, there were 4 types of trees indicated, broadleaf deciduous, broadleaf evergreen, and pine and cedar conifers. However, as the plan developed, the distinction of the trees slowly diminished.

Initially, the use of different types of trees was implemented into 2 sections, north-south, and east-west. On the north-south section, the cedar conifers were used as a screen to control the view of the visitors. For the north section, the rows of trees were used to narrow down the view of visitors. To observe the Cenotaph, the visitors were required to stand in a specific position to peek through a thin gap between cypresses. With the same intention of controlling the movements of visitors, the arrangement of the trees one this part would compress the positions of them in a certain location. In contrast, the east-west section, they were used for ecological aesthetic. Deciduous broadleaf trees were planted along the paths to allow the visitors to witness the changing colours of the leaves through the seasons. A row of pine trees was planted along the Motoyasu River to provide a scenic walk for the visitors to enjoy.

Figure 2. Tange’s plan (bird’s-eye view). 1949. Photograph. Kenchiku Zasshi.

According to the proposed plan, the only elevation related design on the landscape was the area around the cenotaph. It was located right at the core of hourglass-shape paths, which was also the centre of the park. On the plan, it represented the cenotaph as a regular plate on a sunken circular ground border. The use of sunken ground at this location physically differentiate the north and south sections apart. The design intention may depict the image of the destruction of the bombing as the cenotaph was for the victims. Being the only the sunken ground on the flattened park, it presented the distinct value of the structure apart from the other buildings.

Figure 3. Tange, Kenzo. 1952 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park plan. 1952.

Tange had a vision of the park that it should be a factory to create peace, referencing to the prewar position of Hiroshima, a military-industrial city. Due to the vision and comments from the city, many changes were implemented. The change in the design of the cenotaph in 1951 led to the relocation of trees to utilize the new view. In the 1952 plan, using the new cenotaph as the focus, the flower beds were plated on the northern area of the central axis. When the visitors stand inside the cenotaph, they will be able to see the flower beds from one side. On the same time frame, the positions of cypresses that were planted arranged in the north section were changed. The reason was not unclear as it was not mentioned in any document. However, it might be related to Tange’s intention of not wanting his initial concept in the north section to be confined by the boundary of the park. He wanted the idea to expand beyond the park’s border.

Figure 4. Tange, Kenzo. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park plan proposed in 1970s. . Photograph.

The 1970s proposals’ concept was to commemorate the victims and to promote peace, resembling with the main concept of the initial plan. The geometrical cypresses arrangement on the northern section was discarded and relocated to flower beds nearby. The reasons for the cancellation were never officially announced. Based on the previous planning direction, it was likely about the lack of materials in the post-war period. Consequently, the current arrangement went against his first concept of using cypresses to represent the “graves of the dead” that were influenced by the parks in the west. The significant change on the plan was the border indicators. On the initial plan, the arrangement of the trees was used to express the separation of each section. However, the new proposal used various sizes of stones to identify the borders. It was claimed that this approach was to ensure that the newly relocated trees would not be cut down to provide space for new constructions.

The other improvements dealt with the ratio between the land surface and water surface, expanding the peace pond to create a ‘monumentality,’ and attract visitors’ interests. Further, there was a gradual elevation (gradient of 1.4m) from the Peace Boelevard in the southern area. It was on the paving area, guiding the visitors to walk down the slope to the cenotaph. The change in elevation on this plan was also an attempt to control the movement of the visitors.

The landscape development of this proposal aimed to emphasize further the reminder of the destruction. From relocating the trees, it opened up more space on the park, which was once locations of the houses and bodies. These locations were paved with copper-plated restoration map to commemorate. Then this approach was applied to other sections of the park. It was an attempt to create a visual impact on the visitors, making them more conscious about the past. The physical engraves would unify the living and the dead, who stood on the same location.


Note: edited on 20/12/2020


Alkazei, Allam, and Kosuke Matsubara. “The Role of Post-War Reconstruction Planning in Hiroshima’s Image-Shift to a Peace Memorial City.” The 18th International Planning History Society Conference, July 2018, 378–88.

Giamo, Benedict. “The Myth of the Vanquished: The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.” American Quarterly 55, no. 4 (2003): 703-28. Accessed December 15, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30042004.

Learning from Hiroshima’s Reconstruction Experience: Reborn from the Ashes. Report. March 2014. https://www.pref.hiroshima.lg.jp/uploaded/attachment/164444.pdf.

Maki, Rie, and Tomoko Niihata. “Landscape Design in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: Transition of the Design by Kenzo Tange.” Japan Architectural Review 3, no. 2 (2019): 193–204. https://doi.org/10.1002/2475-8876.12136.


2 Comments on “Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Landscape Design

  1. The detailed analyses of tree arrangement, paving and water body and their spatial implication are very useful to understand how landscape becomes a critical part of this plan. How the plantation defines enclosure and layers of space becomes one centre question behind. The plans are definitely helpful to understand the landscape articulation – but only on two-dimensional. With different heights, visual perspective and even different types of trees, the spatial atmosphere could also change a lot. I’m wondering whether there would be supplementary images to help depict the landscape design strategy so we can get a clearer three-dimensional idea in addition to the plans.

  2. This post captures a hugely important discourse of urban landscape in cities. In fact, we have learned that throughout history, “green” represented some form of counter-form to the built form, and it is used as a variety of social and even political measures. For the case of Hiroshima, was “green” the environmental solution to actual radiation remediation? And was “green” not also giving returning residents a visual and experiential sense of calm or hope? Did the architects and planners like Tange discuss this in some detail, or did other scholars and environmentalists attempt to unpack this effect? I would venture a stronger thesis along these lines.

    Note: Please fully cite the sources of these images. If you see a scholar citing this image, make sure you cite both the original source, as well as the scholar’s use of this image. For images that have texts that ought to be readable, please use the enlarge function in WordPress that will allow readers to zoom-in for more details.

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