2012 WMF / Knoll Modernism Prize winner

2012 WMF / Knoll Modernism Prize winner

Hizuchi Elementary School 1

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.

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

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Hizuchi Elementary School was built in response to the rising need for educational facilities as a result of the post-war baby boom in Japan. At the time, Hizuchi was built to house approximately 200 students, with six classrooms each designed to hold 30 or more students.

Today, the student population totals 54 and is expected to decline further over the next decade due to current demographic trends in Japan.

Faced with a dwindling birth rate and a rising elderly population, Japan has been closing schools all over the country.

However, thanks to a group of concerned citizens, architects, and academics, the Hizuchi Elementary School—an exquisite example of Japan’s homegrown brand of Modernism – was beautifully restored instead.

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This building is representative of architecture designed by Masatsune Matsumura – who studied under Kameki Tsuchiura ( one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s disciples ) before the war, and then after the war worked as the city architect for the Yawata Municipality which is near his home town.

Active as a modern architect in the region, he designed many buildings such as schools or hospitals.

Running alongside the Kikigawa River, the narrow building consists of a sequence of spaces interspersed with light wells and united by a long, glass-enclosed corridor. While window walls admit natural light into the six classrooms, an outdoor balcony jutting out from the library overlooks the river.

Though Modern in character, the two-story school was made of wood, Japan’s traditional building material of choice. Unlike most of the country’s timber buildings, it incorporated plenty of glass, flooding the interior with daylight rare for a Japanese public school.

Hizuchi Elementary School 6

But as codes evolved, the building was deemed seismically unsound and no longer met child safety standards.

When a typhoon ravaged the town in 2004, the aged school was seriously damaged, triggering a heated debate over whether to demolish or save the building. A consortium of historians and architects successfully persuaded authorities to preserve the historic structure.

The reconstruction entailed saving some parts of the structure and discarding others.

Over the next three years the building was stripped down to its wood frame and then meticulously brought back to life in accordance with the current seismic code—Japan’s first post-war, wooden school building to receive this upgrade.

Existing glass panels had to be replaced with safety glass, and worn out elements were reproduced, such as the ceramic tiles, which were recast in the original molds. Almost all of the columns and architectural fittings, however, were reused.

Back in service for the past three years, the community is delighted to see the building being used to educate children once again—though many of the restored classrooms have been configured for modification should student enrollment wane in the future as anticipated.

While no one likes to see the number of school aged kids decline, the school’s refurbishment and its international recognition may at least predict a rosier future for 20th century buildings in Japan, a country with a poor track record for preserving its more recent architectural treasures.

“Even though the school is small and local, it still communicates the value of saving,” asserts Consortium member and architectural historian Hiroyuki Suzuki. “It can be a model for saving other old buildings.”

After years of deterioration and benign neglect, the Hizuchi school now looks much as Matsumura envisioned it over 50 years ago.


Japanese Western Architecture

Modern architecture entered Japan from the West in two phases.

In pre-World War II Japan, the ideas of modern architecture were largely imported from Europe and followed many of the designs and ideas of the Bauhaus.

Following the war, a new type of modern architecture began to emerge in Japan, evolving under master architects such as Kunio Maekawa and Kenzo Tange.

Matsumura Masatsune, however, diverged from the mainstream concepts of his peers. His distinctive interpretations represent a localization of Western ideas rather than a wholesale importation.

Modern architecture often emphasized the use of advanced technology and materials, including reinforced steel, concrete, and/or iron frames.

In post-war Japan, however, architects began closely considering how to adapt the country’s traditional wood-frame building traditions to accommodate the structural challenges of modern architecture.

This was also a function of a postwar reality: while wood and steel were more readily available, concrete was scarce and expensive.

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Hizuchi’s unusual hybrid wood-frame structure with steel supporting beams reflects this careful exploration and produced some of its most notable architectural characteristics:

• Double-height and dual-façade fenestration, which allows natural light into classrooms throughout the day (when post-war energy was in short supply); this also provides cross-ventilation in corridors and classrooms

• A vanguard cluster design for classrooms with a glass exterior hallway running the length of the building connecting classrooms and other school functions

• Interior garden light wells that enhance the flow of light and air throughout the building

• A gabled—rather than flat—roof

• A rational spatial design to take advantage of the riverfront site, including a suspended outdoor reading balcony off the school library and two dramatic floating staircases projecting out over the Kikigawa River toward the tangerine groves across the water

• Steel beams and iron braces applied to minimize obstructing the curtain walls, creating a sense of lightness while reinforcing the structural strength of the wood

• An architectural layout that reflected the post-war ideals in Japan for the democratic education of children

matsumura masatsune school drawings 3


Conservation Project for the Hizuchi Elementary School

In 1999, DOCOMOMO  identified the Hizuchi Elementary School as one of the twenty most representative modern buildings in Japan.

However, despite this recognition, the building did not meet modern seismic protection or child-safety standards.

Teachers’ offices were blind to the playground; classrooms had only one exit; and corridors had many blind angles.

Also, due to the advanced deterioration of the structure over its fifty-year life, Hizuchi had suffered from rain-leakage and broken windows.

The extended debate over these matters was finally resolved when a consortium of experts, working closely with the local parents group and board of education, developed a plan that would restore the structure while adapting it to meet modern safety and educational requirements.

typhoon damage 2004

After a 2004 typhoon heavily damaged the school, a two-year stalemate over whether to demolish and replace Hizuchi with a new structure or preserve the original buildings was resolved only after concerted efforts by the city and the creation of an architectural planning group.

This group, which became the Architectural Consortium for Hizuchi Elementary School, was established to develop a collaborative architectural solution to preserve the original design of the building while addressing the seismic, safety, hygienic, and functional concerns raised by parents as they argued for demolition.

In addition, Hizuchi had suffered advanced deterioration during its 50-year life, which needed to be addressed.

typhoon damage 2004 b

Many threats to modern architecture are universal.

The restoration of Hizuchi Elementary School demonstrates that where there is a public will, creative solutions can be found to rejuvenate modern buildings while preserving their architectural history and integrity, allowing them to remain central to communities.

In the case of Hizuchi, the city, school board, parents, historians, and architects worked together to agree on a four-part preservation program to address these challenges.

Hizuchi Elementary School

Hizuchi Elementary School 9

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Materials: Original materials were preserved where possible or replicated in-kind, glass was replaced with safety glass, sound-insulated floors were installed, modern toilets were installed, paint colors were restored through trace research, and damaged tiles were reproduced using original molds.

Structural: Of the 462 structural wooden pillars supporting the school, 459 were restored and reused. Seismic retrofitting was installed inside the walls, ceilings, and floors, with double fittings installed on the glass curtain walls. Hizuchi was the first post-war wooden school in Japan to be seismically retrofitted.

Programmatic: A new classroom wing was built to create additional classrooms that met modern needs while maintaining many of the hallmark features of the original buildings, including the wooden architecture, abundant natural light, and harmony with the river. Teacher rooms were clustered near classrooms and used more transparent walls for greater student security. Original classrooms were restored, washrooms refurbished, and some spaces were flexibly designed for community use in anticipation of a future decline in the student population.

Advocacy: The Architectural Consortium involved the community through symposiums, meetings, and surveys in baseline restoration planning and design to meet parents’ concerns.

matsumura masatsune school drawings

From 2006 to 2009 the school was meticulously restored.

Classrooms were restored, and some were designed with flexibility for community use, anticipating a future decline in the student population.

The building became the first postwar wooden school building to be seismically retrofitted.

A new wing, the West Building, was constructed to meet modern needs, but was designed in keeping with the original architecture.

The project is believed to be the first case of an architecturally significant modern wooden building restoration in Japan.

In 2012 it won the Annual Award of the Architectural Institute of Japan


The School’s wooden construction is a reminder of the dialogue between tradition and modernity in the history of the modern movement, and is representative of the importance of the survival of certain building traditions in the postwar period.

pre restoration


post restoration

The rejuvenated structure can now be appreciated by national and international communities, and can become a symbol of the importance of everyday modern architecture in both Japan and around the world.

Exhibition at Gallery A4, Tokyo

Yawatahama’s Hizuchi Elementary School & Masatsune Matsumura is an exhibition of a prolific, but not widely known, architect and his most celebrated project.

The show is running through June 3 at the Gallery A4 on the lobby level of Takenaka Corporation’s Tokyo headquarters

This exhibit of Matsumura’s work includes wall-sized photographs, drawings, video, the architect’s sketchbooks, and even his calligraphy.

On display is a collection of models, drawings, large-scale photographs, videos, original building components, and furniture from Matsumura’s architectural works.

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An elegant structural model of the school further illustrates Matsumura’s economy of means through the use of regular, small-section components.

Timber framing units with steel rod x-braces are assembled to provide lateral resistance for the structure.

This effectively turns the riverside facade into a curtain wall, allowing it to be as open as possible and maximizing views of the river. These thoughtful touches are not only resourceful but prove deeply meaningful to the end-users — in this case, students and teachers.

exhibition 1

In architectural exhibits and publications, often the buildings are documented without people in them. Yawatahama’s Hizuchi Elementary School & Masatsune Matsumura is refreshingly focused on the occupants’ experience.

Mounted throughout the show are several floor-to-ceiling photos of students enjoying their school. The students also contributed their own drawings of the school, which are displayed together as a montage.

About Masatsune Matsumura

matasune makashima


Born in 1913 in Ehime Prefecture, Japan

Matsumura trained at Musashi Advanced Technical School (now Tokyo City University) and graduated in 1935.

He trained under Kurata Chikatada, who had travelled in Europe and studied in Germany with Gropius.

If one senses the spirit of Walter Gropius in the modernist-functionalist designs of Hizuchi Elementary School, such feelings would not be misplaced. Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus, was one of the most significant influences on Matsumura and the only Western architect quoted in the Hizuchi architect’s writings.

Kurata later recommended Matsumura for a job working in the office of Tsuchiura Kameki,  ( the Japanese apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and who also studied and worked at Taliesin and in Los Angeles from 1922 to 1925 and who later introduced Richard Neutra to Japan )

Despite never visiting Europe himself, Matsumura was exposed to the ideas of modern European architecture through many design magazines, such as Kokusai Kenchiku ( “International Architecture” ), published in pre-war Japan

In 1939, the firm relocated to Manchuria to help in the community planning effort for Japan’s Agricultural Land Development Authority.

Following the war, Matsumura returned to Ehime and for the next 13 years ( 1947 to 1960) he worked as a civil servant at the Architecture and Engineering Division of Yawatahama City.

During the  years Matsumura worked for Yawatahama City, he designed nearly 40 buildings. Today, only six survive, of which one—the Yawatahama City Hospital— is slated for demolition

In 1960, Matsumura was recognized as one of the top ten architects in Japan by the influential publication Bungei Shunju (along with Togo Murano, Kunio Maekawa and Kenzo Tange).

In 1960 he established his own firm in Matsuyama City and continued to practice there until his death in 1993.

His long career produced nearly 400 works of varying scales — mostly schools, hospitals and other civic-oriented structures. He designed spaces meant to accommodate their occupants, whether children, teachers, patients or doctors.

Although Matsumura would likely be categorized as a modernist, his work embodies a resourcefulness and human touch not necessarily shared by his heroically-inclined, Corbusian contemporaries. In the accompanying annotations of the exhibit he is quoted as saying, “Architecture is merely a container after all, and that is okay.

Why were so many of Matsumura’s public buildings demolished ?

Re-evaluation and appreciation of Japan’s modern architecture began in earnest in 1990. By that time, many of Matsumura’s buildings had already been destroyed without attribution to Matsumura, who had been largely forgotten.

Following his death, however, a renewed appreciation for Matsumura’s architecture began.

Professor Hanada Yoshiaki, a member of the Architectural Consortium for Hizuchi Elementary School, began his own research on Matsumura in 1994, a year after the architect’s death (his book detailing the life and works of Matsumura was published in 2011).

In 1999, DOCOMOMO identified Hizuchi as one of the 20 most representative modern buildings in Japan. It has also been nominated to be listed as an Important Cultural Property, one of the highest historical designations in Japan.

These recent public and professional recognitions for Matsumura’s work have contributed significantly to the efforts to preserve Matsumura’s few surviving municipal buildings.

2012 Modernism Prize

modernism prize

The World Monuments Fund / Knoll Modernism Prize is the only award to acknowledge threats facing modern buildings, and to recognize the architects and designers who help ensure their rejuvenation and survival.

The Knoll Modernism Prize was established to raise public awareness of the contribution Modernism makes to contemporary life, the important place Modernism holds in the architectural record, and the influential role that architects and designers play in preserving Modern heritage.

Projects that enhanced a site’s architectural, functional, economic and environmental sustainability while benefiting the community are encouraged.

Nominated projects must have been completed in the last five years.

In addition to a generous cash honorarium the winning designer, architect or firm receives a limited-edition Mies van der Rohe designed Barcelona chair, created by Knoll in honor of the award, and a trip to New York to present the project at a lecture at the Museum of Modern Art.


The biennial award was presented at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, on November 13, 2012, by Ms. Burnham; Barry Bergdoll, MoMA’s Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture & Design and chairman of the prize jury; and Andrew B. Cogan, CEO of Knoll, Inc.

This was followed by a free public lecture by the members of the Architectural Consortium

award lecture

Architectural Consortium for Hizuchi Elementary School

The Consortium was formed in 2005, after Yawatahama City established a planning committee for Hizuchi Elementary School’s renovation.

Six experts—architects and professors—then came together to work on the project with City officials.

In addition to the City, the individual members of the consortium are Hiroyuki Suzuki, professor at Aoyama Gakuin University; Kiyotada Magata, professor at Ehime Univeristy; Yoshiaki Hanada, professor at Kobe Design University; Kouichi Wada, president of Wada Architectural Design Atelier; Kazutomi Takechi, CEO of Atelier A&A Ltd.; and Mikio Koshihara, professor at the University of Tokyo

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Ms. Burnham stated, “The international community is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of modernism in the architectural record, and this year we had more nominations for the WMF/Knoll prize than ever before. The award-winning project—a humble, functional building in a small Japanese city—and the story of people coming together for its preservation—is emblematic of the important role that modern architecture can play in communities around the world.”

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Mr. Bergdoll added, “In its review of the nominations, the jury was delighted to discover an exemplary building in the history of post-war modernist architecture in Japan as yet little known outside the country. It can now be recognized internationally as both an extremely fine building and an absolutely impeccable restoration project.”

Mr. Cogan said, “Knoll is pleased to maintain its leadership role in the World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk initiative. The prize reflects our unwavering seventy-five-year commitment to modern design, and we are especially pleased with the number and variety of nominations from around the world and the jury’s recognition of such an inspiring project.”

To determine the winner of the prize, the jury reviewed some forty nominations from twenty countries, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Peru, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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The prize—$10,000 and a limited-edition Barcelona chair created by Knoll especially for the occasion has previously gone to –

2008 Brenne Gesellschaft von Architekten’s restoration of the former ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau, Germany

2010 Bierman Henket architecten and Wessel de Jonge architects for their restoration of the Zonnestraal Sanatorium in the Dutch town of Hilversum – It was built between 1926 and 1931 for tuberculosis patients. The rescue of this iconic building lead to the creation of Docomomo—and the beginning of further international efforts to preserve modern architecture

case studies WMF modernism at risk

World Monuments Fund

World Monuments Fund is the leading independent organization devoted to saving the world’s treasured places.

Since 1965, working in nearly 100 countries, our highly skilled experts have applied proven and effective techniques to preserve important architectural and cultural heritage sites around the globe.

Through partnerships with local communities, funders, and governments, WMF inspires an enduring commitment to stewardship for future generations.

Headquartered in New York, WMF has offices and affiliates worldwide. www.wmf.org

The World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk Initiative was launched in 2006 to bring international attention and resources to address the key threats and challenges facing many modern buildings only decades after their design and construction: demolition, inappropriate alteration, perceived obsolescence, and public apathy, as well as the technical problems associated with conserving innovative designs and materials.

The World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize was established as part of the larger advocacy mission of the World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk Initiative
to acknowledge the specific and growing threats—neglect, deterioration, and demolition—facing significant modern buildings, and to recognize the architects and designers who help ensure their rejuvenation and long-term survival through new design solutions.

The prize is awarded biennially to an individual or firm in recognition of a completed project or a body of work.

The award is a $10,000 honorarium and a limited-edition Knoll Barcelona® Chair.

The 2008 Prize was awarded for the restoration of the ADGB Trade School in Germany. Built from 1928 to 1930, it was the Bauhaus’ largest building project (apart from its own headquarters in Dessau) and one of its most eminent buildings. It was almost lost to history following World War II, before it was rescued and restored.

The 2010 Prize was awarded for the restoration of Zonnestraal Sanatorium, located in The Netherlands. It was built between 1926 and 1931 for tuberculosis patients. The rescue of this iconic building lead to the creation of Docomomo—and the beginning of further international efforts to preserve modern architecture.

modernism prze

knoll logo

“Since our company’s founding almost 75 years ago, Knoll has been committed to connecting people with modern design.

We applaud the jury’s selection of the Architectural Consortium for Hizuchi Elementary School.

Its original design some 54 years ago recalls the original functionalist roots of modern architecture, putting the needs of its users—in this case, school children—at the core of the project.

The preservation of Hizuchi is a model of community engagement among architects, engineers, parents, and the school board. The result is a tremendous technical achievement that has sensitively restored this forward-thinking, modern school building, making it, once again, the center of community life.

Through a competition to engage the school with the Prize, the students of Hizuchi were asked to select the color of leather for the Knoll Barcelona® Chair that commemorates this award. Appropriately, the winning entry was orange, reflecting the tangerine groves that remain such a vital part of the local landscape.

Our support of the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize reinforces our belief that good design can play an enriching role in contemporary life worldwide. On behalf of our associates, I’d like to thank all those who nominated projects and salute the Architectural Consortium for Hizuchi Elementary School for its exemplary work.

Andrew B. Cogen
CEO, Knoll, Inc.


The Architectural Consortium for Hizuchi Elementary School was honored by Yawatahama City Mayor Ichiro Oshiro and other city and school officials at a ceremony held at the School on Feb 14th 2013.

tomada speech

Members of the Yawatahama Board of Education, Hizuchi Elementary School students and representatives from Knoll Japan who were in attendance listened to a speech by Mr. Tomada, Director of Knoll Japan.


During the ceremony Tomada and World Monuments Fund representative Mitsuo Inagaki presented a Barcelona® Chair to Hizuchi Elementary School Principal and students. Attendees also toured the school and viewed the koi pond that students took it upon themselves to restore.

Each of the 53 students in attendance also received a Knoll tote bag as a gift from Tomada and Knoll Japan.

Modernism at Risk

Despite a growing appreciation for twentieth-century architecture in r cent years, great works continue to be lost to neglect, deterioration, and demolition only decades after their design and construction.

World Monuments Fund began preserving modern sites in the 1980s, when it helped restore seminal modern murals in and around Mexico City following a devastating earthquake. Later, it led the restoration of Brancusi’s Endless Column, in Romania, and the battle to save Edward Durell Stone’s A. Conger Goodyear House, on Long Island, in the United States.

In 1996, WMF launched its World Monuments Watch program, which over the years has included more than twenty modern buildings.

Among these have been the Rusakov Club, Moscow, Russia (Konstantin Melnikov); the Viipuri Library, Vyborg, Russia (Alvar Aalto); the Villa Tugendhat, Brno, the Czech Republic (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe); the International Fairground, Tripoli, Lebanon (Oscar Niemeyer); Taliesin and Taliesin West, Spring Green, Wisconsin, and Scottsdale, Arizona, respectively (Frank Lloyd Wright); Kings Road House, West Hollywood, California (Rudolf Michael Schindler); the Grosse Pointe Memorial Library, Michigan (Marcel Breuer); and the Orange County Government Center, Goshen, New York (Paul Rudolph).

In 2006, responding to growing threats to modern architecture, WMF launched its Modernism at Risk initiative, with Knoll as founding sponsor. The initiative provides a framework for addressing the issues that endanger modern landmarks and supports architectural advocacy, conservation, and public education. World Monuments Fund

World Monuments Fund is the leading independent organization devoted to saving the world’s most treasured places.

Since 1965, working in more than ninety countries, its highly skilled experts have applied effective techniques to preserve important architectural- and cultural-heritage sites around the globe.

Through partnerships with local communities, funders, and governments, WMF inspires an enduring commitment to stewardship for future generations.

Headquartered in New York, WMF has offices and affiliates worldwide. wmf.org, twitter.com/worldmonuments, and facebook.com/worldmonuments.

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