Eight years ago, the 54 year old Hizuchi Elementary School was ravaged by a typhoon and together with its natural deterioration, it left people debating whether to just demolish or restore the structure. Authorities must be really happy with the decision to restore because the work has won the 2012 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize, a biennial award given to innovative architectural or design solutions for the preservation or enhancement of a modern landmark.
Hizuchi Elementary School was designed by esteemed municipal architect Masatsune Matsumura between 1956-58 and located at Shikoku Island. It was an extraordinary piece of a functionalist modern building and was made primarily out of wood, Japan’s traditional building material. Its dual façade fenestration also allowed natural light to flow into the building, back when there was a shortage of electricity. Its riverside setting also provided the perfect design for an outdoor reading balcony and a staircase that hangs over the Kiki River.
After the typhoon, there ensued a two-year debate over what to do with this landmark. It took three years of careful and meticulous restoration to bring it back to its present glorious structure. It won the 2012 Annual Award of the Architectural Institute of Japan. This latest award from WMF won them $10,000 and a limited edition Barcelona chair that Knoll specifically created for the occasion. WMF president Bonnie Burnham said that this emblematic building exemplifies the importance of modern architecture in community building.