Hizuchi Elementary School

World Monuments Fund awarded its 2012 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize to the Architectural Consortium for Hizuchi Elementary School for their restoration of Hizuchi Elementary School in Hizuchi, Yawatahama City, Ehime Prefecture, on Shikoku Island, Japan.

History

Hizuchi Elementary School was created by the once little-known but now esteemed municipal architect Masatsune Matsumura (1913–1993) and completed between 1956 and 1958.

The school is distinctive for its functionalist modern design, and is an important example of cluster-style architecture from this period. It is unusual in being a modern building constructed primarily of wood, Japan’s traditional building material. Notable features of the building include dual-façade fenestration to allow natural light into the building during the postwar period, when energy was in short supply. The different sections of the building are connected by a long, glass exterior hallway. The design takes advantage of its riverside setting, with a suspended outdoor reading balcony off the library and a staircase that protrudes over the Kiki River.

Hizuchi was recognized as one of the twenty representative modern buildings in Japan by DOCOMOMO in 1999. Despite this recognition, the building faced a number of issues because it did not conform to modern seismic protection or child safety standards. Teachers’ offices were blind to the playground; classrooms had only one exit; and corridors had many blind angles. Due to the age of the structure, deterioration also affected the building, which suffered rain-leakage and broken windows. A 2004 typhoon further damaged the school.

Restoration

The damage to the school and its lack of certain modern requirements led to a debate in the town over whether to preserve or demolish the structure. After a two year debate, a consortium of experts came together, working closely with the local parents group and board of education, to create a plan for the restoration of the school that would also adapt it to meet modern safety and educational requirements.

From 2006 to 2009 the school was meticulously restored. Original elements were used wherever possible, with 459 of 462 original pillars and over 90 percent of architectural fittings re-used. Paint colors were restored through trace research, and damaged tiles were replicated with original molds. Original glass, much of which had been destroyed in the typhoon, was replaced with safety glass. Classrooms were restored, and some were designed with flexibility for community use, anticipating a future decline in the student population. The building became the first postwar wooden school building to be seismically retrofitted. A new wing, the West Building, was constructed to meet modern needs, but was designed in keeping with the original architecture.

The project is believed to be the first case of an architecturally significant modern wooden building restoration in Japan. In 2012 it won the Annual Award of the Architectural Institute of Japan. The rejuvenated structure can now be appreciated by national and international communities, and can become a symbol of the importance of everyday modern architecture in both Japan and around the world.

The Consortium

The Consortium was formed in 2005, after Yawatahama City established a planning committee for Hizuchi Elementary School’s renovation. Six experts—architects and professors—then came together to work on the project with City officials. In addition to the City, the individual members of the consortium are Hiroyuki Suzuki, professor at Aoyama Gakuin University; Kiyotada Magata, professor at Ehime Univeristy; Yoshiaki Hanada, professor at Kobe Design University; Kouichi Wada, president of Wada Architectural Design Atelier; Kazutomi Takechi, CEO of Atelier A&A Ltd.; and Mikio Koshihara, professor at the University of Tokyo.

The Jury

In determining the winner of the 2012 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize, the jury reviewed more than forty nominations from twenty countries, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Peru, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The jury was chaired by Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and included Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture at New York University; Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University; Dietrich Neumann, Royce Family Professor for the History of Modern Architecture and Urban Studies at Brown University; Theo Prudon, president of DOCOMOMO/US, architect at Prudon & Partners LLC, and adjunct associate professor of historic preservation at Columbia University; and Karen Stein, an architectural advisor, member of the faculty of the design criticism program at the School of Visual Arts, and executive director of the George Nelson Foundation.