Anja Kempa's fantastical drawings imagine
an artificial spring in Tokyo


Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa

Intricate drawings by Bartlett School of Architecture graduate Anja Kempa present a vision for how spring could be recreated in Tokyo, once cherry trees fail to blossom because of climate change.

Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa
This image: Energy of Spring. Main image: detail of Energy of Spring

Remembering Spring forms Anja Kempa's MA graduate project from the Bartlett School of Architecture, and looks at how Japanese traditions that are being eroded by climate change can be recreated.

Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa
Plan of The Energy Gardens - click for larger image

"Remembering Spring is assuming that with climate change and seasonal shifts, there is no spring, because the cherry blossom are not blooming. So it's looking at how you recreate the season if the season does not exist," Kempa told Dezeen.

In the drawings, roads are turned into fields for growing rice, and straw from the rice is converted into bio-fuel in nearby towers, using the same process for making sake. The rice straw is also used to make paper, which geisha turn into origami cherry blossoms and scatter around the city to mark the beginning of a new artificial spring.

Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa
Remembering Spring - click for larger image

"Being made of rice straw, the cherry blossoms also act as a natural fertiliser for the new rice, and so the cycle begins again," explained Kempa. "The calendar moves back to its agrarian origin as a farming year, but in a way that is applicable to modern society."

Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa
Detail from Remembering Spring

The setting for the series of drawings is the ward of Chiyoda – the cultural and historical heart of the Tokyo and home to the Imperial Palace. It starts with an aerial view of the city and then zooms in to depict more detailed scenes.

Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa
New Hanami - click for larger image

In one picture, giant koinobori fish made from rice paper float above the city like clouds to deflect heat and provide shade for the rice fields below. In another, families mark the beginning of the new artificial spring by gathering under inflatable trees that work like gasometers, filling up as bio-fuel is produced.

Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa
Strolling Geisha - click for larger image

"The new cherry trees are an indicator of the fuel produced by the garden, and people gather under these trees of technology, rather than actual blossoms. It's representing what the tradition could become," explained Kempa.

Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa
Announcing Spring - click for larger image

Another drawing shows a bonsai garden, where miniature versions of extinct plants are preserved for future generations. "It's like a seed bank, but with bonsai trees," said Kempa.

Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa
Celebrating Tradition - click for larger image

Geisha oversee the various processes, working in distillation chambers to create bio-fuel and monitoring the rice fields. "The geisha traditionally always controlled nature, whereas the samurai were more like warrior and political figures. So the geisha becomes like new samurai for the city," said Kempa.

Remembering Spring by Anja Kempa
Library of Memory - click for larger image

While fantastical, Kempa insists the drawings relate to current issues. "They are presented in a fantastical way, but relate to the near future – it's a tangible future," she said.

"The cherry blossom is already not blooming, and the authorities in Tokyo have presented an initiative to bring green areas back to the city, moving outwards from the Chiyoda ward. So all of the things in the drawings could be considered a proposal for the current initiative. It's all things that they are worrying about now."

Anja Kempa completed Remembering Spring as part of the Bartlett's Unit 10 – the drawing unit led by architect CJ Lim. She received a distinction for the project.

  • terry

    The CJ Lim template. Again and again. What’s new?

  • Prole

    CJ Lim, who would have guessed. I think I can spot his head hidden amongst the clouds…

  • hy

    From Japanese point of view, it is quite fake.

  • PC

    The concept and description is poor. Not Impressed at all!

    • Cone Man

      Ur description and concept is poor. I’m not impressed at all by ur description. It’s short, too short. I have never read anything so short and pointless in connection to such a developed an intricate piece of work. You write a splurge of shockingly empty intelligence in reaction to a piece of work that has been laboured over for unsavoury hours for the pleasure of simple storytelling. The description is in the drawing if you look hard enough, and your being impressed or not has no more relevance than a cone, any cone in the world, being places 1mm due south or 1.5 mm due north then its current placement.

  • andrea

    Booooo to the haters

    • mitate

      What exactly convinced you that you’re dealing with haters, and furthermore, that they needed to be booed?

      • Mr Bodgy Todgy

        Because people are waggling their little fingers over keyboards about the shortcoming of the students tutor, and not looking at the up most beauty confined within these ruddy stunning hand drawings. How utterly mind-blowingly shortsighted are we that we must be old todgy-wodgy wally-bothers about CJ and his objectives in architecture and not enjoy rather elegant and fine images from a exceptional talent.

        So yeah, boo the haters!

        • mitate

          “Old todgy-wodgy wally-brothers about CJ”? ‘Twas brilig, and the slithy toves. Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.

  • mitate

    A Sakura hiccup? That old rascally climate change again.

  • Bobby

    Reckon these are quality, definitely want to check out more of these!

  • Charlie

    People, if all you want to do is go online and bad mouth people, you need to take a serious look at your life. Beautiful work.

  • SFRussianHill

    Beautiful work, inspired intentions. Well done.

  • Mamiko

    Well as a Japanese person I believe this is absolutely stunning work and the idea is ingenious. Climate change has affected our iconic symbol of spring and her idea is not only incredibly creative and innovative, but mind-blowingly stunning as well.

    I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Kempa’s drawings at the exhibition and there was a constant crowd of people pressed up close to her work-trying to find out if they were hand-drawn or not. I know because I was one of those people and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Truly magnificent.

  • Carl

    Went to see these at the Bartlett show. Couldn’t tell if they were hand drawn, digital or maybe a mix? Either way, amazing drawings. WELL DONE!

  • Chloe

    Jealousy obviously hits a nerve… From the public eye these are clearly drawings not only impressive in terms of quality and scale but the analysis of what is depicted simply adds to the beauty going on.