Statement on Proposed Demolition of Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium, Japan
World Monuments Fund (WMF) is dismayed to learn of the planned demolition of Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium in Takamatsu, Japan. Kagawa’s prefectural government made the announcement on February 7, 2023, citing financial reasons. WMF selected the gymnasium for its 2018 Watch to bring attention to local advocates’ push to preserve the building in the face of several challenges to its continued survival.
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Kenzō Tange, Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium is a stunning example of Japanese modernism. Tange’s use of concrete construction to execute the building’s sweeping roof, whose shape echoes that of typical Japanese wooden boats, is emblematic of his inventive blending of traditional and modern elements. While other buildings by Tange have been designated Important Cultural Properties (including the Kagawa Prefectural Government Office East Building, which is also located in Takamatsu), Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium has not received the protective heritage designations it deserves. In 2014, the discovery of roof leaks led to the building’s closure, with repairs to the suspension cables expected to prove technically difficult. The construction of a new sports facility nearby, which would usurp the gym’s original function, posed a further challenge to Tange’s building.
Since 2018, WMF has partnered with community-based organization Kagawa Boat Gym Revitalization Association (KBGRA) to conduct a series of advocacy activities, including a photo exhibition, workshops, and lectures to advocate to save and preserve the site. In 2021, WMF collaborated with Japan's National Archives of Modern Architecture (NAMA) on the organization of a major exhibition in Tokyo dedicated to raising awareness of the gymnasium’s significance. WMF’s heroic attempts to save Kenzo Tange’s gymnasium are an important example of a move to broaden participation in decision-making around modernist architecture through public-private collaboration with community-based organizations and institutions.
Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium is one of a number of avant-garde buildings faced with the threat of demolition, a cause WMF has called attention to via initiatives like Modernism at Risk. As is the case for Tange’s Takamatsu gymnasium, the innovative and experimental design elements, materials, and technologies that define these structures are often the biggest challenges to their preservation.
World Monuments Fund safeguards cultural heritage around the globe, ensuring our treasured places are preserved for present and future generations.
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