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Hizuchi Elementary School
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The 2012 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize has been awarded to the Architectural Consortium for Hizuchi Elementary School for the restoration of Hizuchi Elementary School. Located in Yawatahama City, Ehime Prefecture, Japan, the school is a post-war functionalist wood school designed by Masatsune Matsumura (1913–1993), a once little-known, but now greatly admired Japanese municipal architect. The school was completed between 1956 and 1958 and restored by the Consortium between 2006 and 2009.
The School is an important example of cluster-style architecture with a strong modern character, most notable in its apparent lightness. The building is an unusual hybrid, being a modern building constructed primarily of wood, Japan’s traditional building material, that then incorporates modern building approaches and materials, such as the use of reinforcing steel elements. Its prominent architectural characteristics include dual-façade fenestration, which allowed natural light into classrooms throughout the day when postwar energy was in short supply. A long, glass exterior hallway runs the length of the school, connecting building functions that are separated by interior garden light-wells. Its rational spatial designs take advantage of its dramatic riverfront site, including a suspended outdoor reading balcony off the school library and a dramatic floating staircase that protrudes over the Kiki River.
After damage from a 2004 typhoon, the school was threatened by demolition. After a two-year stalemate, the community and architectural professionals formulated a collaborative architectural solution to preserve the original design of the building while creating a more contemporary educational environment.
The conservation and renovation of Hizuchi is a model project because of the masterful approach to preservation of a modern architectural work that is expected to continue to serve a community’s daily use. Its successful restoration is a model for publicly owned historic buildings at risk around the world.