2018 World Monuments Watch
In the 1950s, Masanori Kaneko, the visionary governor of Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture, invited Kenzo Tange 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.
A beloved landmark, the Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium hosted local sports events in Takamatsu for 50 years, until its suspended roof began to leak and the facility was closed to the public in 2014. The leak was caused by the rusting of the suspension cables, leading to the need for their replacement if the building is to remain in use. Like the original construction of the gymnasium, its rehabilitation poses a serious technical challenge, and would necessitate further interventions to improve the building’s resistance to earthquakes. The construction of a new sports facility in Takamatsu, scheduled for completion by 2022, means that the future of Tange’s mid-century landmark currently hangs in the balance. The 2018 World Monuments Watch supports local advocates, including Japan’s architecture community, in their campaign to stimulate social demand for the preservation of the Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium, with a new vision for its future use.