The 2012 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize has been awarded to the Architectural Consortium for Hizuchi Elementary School for its restoration of Hizuchi Elementary School in Hizuchi, Yawatahama City, Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku Island, Japan. Designed by the Japanese municipal architect Masatsune Matsumura, the school was nominated by a consortium of Japanese architects and professors including Docomomo Japan  Chair Hiroyuki Suzuki.
Completed between 1956-1958, the cluster-style architecture of Hizuchi Elementary School represents a hybrid of modernism and traditionalism. Modernist features such as the rational spatial design, use of dual facade windows, and a long glass exterior hallway that connected the entire school, are juxtaposed with the use of a traditional Japanese material: wood, in the construction. In 1999, Docomomo Japan, recognized Hizuchi Elementary School as one of the twenty most significant modern buildings. A description of the school was included in the Docomomo International  publication, The Modern Movement in Architecture: Selections from the DOCOMOMO Registers:
“This building is representative of architecture designed by Masatsune Matsumura. He studied under Kameki Tsuchiura before the war, and then worked at the Yawata Municipality which is near his home town, after the war. Active as a modern architect in the region, he designed many buildings such as schools or hospitals. The space in this building is consciously composed based on the principals of modernism, rather than on that of a traditional wooden structure. Regarding the planning, the class rooms, corridors and bathrooms are treated as independent elements. By arranging the courtyard between classrooms and corridors, lighting and ventilation are obtained from both sides of the classroom.”
In 2004, a typhoon left Hizuchi Elementary School in a severely deteriorated condition. After a long debate on whether to demolish the school, the consortium of experts along with local residents and the board of education decided to preserve it and began work. They developed a plan to restore the structure while simultaneously adapting it to fit contemporary needs.The school became the first significant, modern structure constructed of wood, in Japanese culture.
Image (left): Hizuchi Elementary School after the 2004 Typhoon. Credit: wmf.org
Docomomo US  would like to congratulate our Docomomo Japan colleagues on the sensitive conservation of Hizuchi Elementary School and the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize for their acknowledgement of this work and for recognizing the importance of schools as a typology. For more on the prize visit: (www.wmf.org/news ). For more on Docomomo Japan visit: www.docomomojapan.com /