Site History and Significance
A Visionary Structure
In the 1950s, Masanori Kaneko, the visionary governor of Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture, invited Kenzo Tange (1913–2005) to design two new buildings in the prefectural capital, Takamatsu. At the time, Tange was Japan’s leading architect, working on the design of the Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
For the Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium, Tange used modern materials to evoke the form of a traditional Japanese wooden barge, as well as the strong and supple body of an athlete. The structure consists of a deep concrete ring carried on four massive supports, with a roof of thin concrete slabs supported by suspension cables. Inside, the sports hall lies above the entry level, which contains other facilities, including dressing rooms and offices.
Tange Kenzo 1938–1970
Tange Kenzo, a Pritzker Prize-winning architect whose designs combined traditional Japanese and modernist forms, has had a profound influence on architecture in Japan and abroad. In 2021, World Monuments Fund (WMF) collaborated with Japan's National Archives of Modern Architecture (NAMA) on the organization of an exhibition in Tokyo, held alongside the 2020 Olympic Games. Titled TANGE KENZO 1938-1970, From Prewar period to the Olympic Games and World Expo, the exhibition featured the architect’s work in Kagawa and on the Prefectural Gymnasium, raising awareness of the site’s significance among national and international audiences.
A beloved landmark, the Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium hosted local sports events in Takamatsu for 50 years until a leak in the building's roof led the facility to close in 2014. The leak was caused by the rusting of the suspension cables, which need to be replaced for the building to remain in use.
The gymnasium’s rehabilitation poses a serious technical challenge and would require further interventions to improve its earthquake resistance. The construction of a new sports facility in Takamatsu, scheduled for completion by 2024, further threatens the future of Tange’s mid-century landmark.
2018 World Monuments Watch
The site was included on the 2018 World Monuments Watch to support local advocates, including Japan’s architecture community, in their campaign to advocate for the preservation of the Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium and their vision for its future use.
One of Eight Sites Awarded Funding by American Express
In June 2018, American Express announced $1 million total in funding to support preservation efforts at eight 2018 Watch sites, including the Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium. Thanks to this support, World Monuments Fund (WMF) launched a project in 2019 to build capacity and foster community stewardship in the campaign against the site’s demolition.
To maximize community engagement in the efforts to save and preserve the gymnasium, WMF’s project included Watch Day events and the creation of an “advocacy table”, staffed over eight months to serve as a community information center. WMF also worked to form a community consensus around the site’s conservation plan by building relationships with key governmental and local stakeholders.
Kagawa Gymnasium at Risk
In the fall of 2021, with the construction of the new replacement gymnasium on track, the prefectural government of Kagawa is attempting to find an interested buyer for the restoration and reuse of Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium.
Without a buyer, the gymnasium will likely be demolished. Local activists, who believe that the building is architectural heritage worthy of being preserved and handed down to future citizens of Kagawa prefecture continue to advocate to preserve the gymnasium, launching a petition for signatures to preserve the gymnasium. You can join the campaign to advocate for the gymnasium here.
World Monuments Fund safeguards cultural heritage around the globe, ensuring our treasured places are preserved for present and future generations.
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World Monuments Fund’s work at Kagawa Prefecture Gymnasium has been made possible, in part, by support from American Express.