Leisure & Culture #48

The Story of an Anthill

La Collina

Written by: Kit Chan
Translated by: Derek Leung
Photos by: Kit Chan

There is a place which sees no need for purposeful description. If you are there, you will realize the beauty of living in Nature, especially if you got shrunk and became an ant.

The place is called La Collina, the flagship store of a well-known cake brand "Taneya CLUB HARIE" located in the ancient city of Omi Hachiman in the county of Shiga, the Kansai part of Japan.

Built in early 2015 with ongoing expansion, the shop selling traditional ringcakes and Japanese sweet treats has unexpectedly been conveying a message to consumers: how can we satisfy our sweet tooth while paying attention to the ecology?

The answer is to show the beauty of Nature with direct delivery of a work of architecture as beautiful as the illustrations in a picture book. Hence, your eyes can look around and can finally spot a scene of unusual fantasy: a row of houses with lush green grass-filled roofs in the backdrop of tall trees and huge mountains.

La Collina’s landmark structure is “kusayane”, which means “grass roof”

Flourishing with jade green Zoysia grass during Spring and Sunmer and covered with the withered counterparts and snow in Autumn and Winter respectively, La Collina’s landmark structure “kusayane”, which means “grass roof”, is the testimony of four seasons and serves as a natural cooler to lower the temperature inside the building complex.

Further to a "grass house", it is indeed never wrong to regard this construction instead as a "tree house", by reason that the pillars thereof are made from the entire logs of chestnut wood extracted from the suburbs of Shiga for the retention of the delicate wood patterns, and more surprisingly, the presence of a tree on the rooftop which illustrates great vitality and a closer distance between human beings and Nature.

The "tree house" is designed by Terunobu Fujimori, a reputable kidult in the architectural industry in Japan renowned for making good use of natural building materials such as wood, stone and mud, and creating space of wonder by making fun construction. That said, another wing of La Collina with the “douyane”, meaning “copper roof”, looks like an anthill in a surrealistic science fiction, in particular accented by the frequent presence of egg-shaped clay ornaments along the garden trail and the seemingly crawling black ant movement pattern, which is in fact made of the environmentally friendly bamboo charcoal pieces for humidity and sound resistance, in the inner part of the grass roof.

You may wonder why ants are chosen out of zillions of living creatures. It is crystal clear that ants love the sweetness in the cake but Fujimori would like to bring out the message that many a little makes a mickle and a huge of tiny ants can work for a better ecological balance.

Many a little makes a mickle and a huge of tiny ants can work for a better ecological balance

Fujimori’s amour and respect over Nature is not only reflected in architecture but the joint plantation of rice between La Collina and the university departments of agriculture around Shiga. Surrounded by rice fields with golden harvest during Autumn, La Collina runs regular farming workshops and guided ecology tours for the dessert loving visitors to join because agriculture is not only considered the origin of food but, more importantly, the beauty of living.

Thanks to the rice plantation around La Collina, the installation of waterways throughout the farmland plays an extra conducive role in re-nurturing fireflies and providing them with a clean and pollution-free habitat. Very soon, a scene with countless fireflies flying in mid-Summer is highly expected.

After all, delectable desserts are not as tempting as the mountains, trees, farmland, cottage, and various species of bugs and birds. However, without concerted efforts of different parties, this puzzle of Nature can never be completed.

A minute self portrays a mighty universe

After all, delectable desserts are not as tempting as the mountains, trees, farmland, cottage, and various species of bugs and birds. However, without concerted efforts of different parties, this puzzle of Nature can never be completed.