Docomomo International became recently aware by the World Monument Fund that Kenzo Tange’s Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium in Takamatsu, Japan, at risk of demolition despite its significance as a masterpiece of modern architecture.
“A beloved landmark, the Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium hosted local sports events for 50 years until a leak in the building’s roof led the facility to close in 2014. The gymnasium was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tange Kenzo (1913–2005), whose designs combining traditional Japanese and modernist forms had a profound influence on architecture in Japan and abroad.
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.”
Closed since 2014, due to a the leak in the roof 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 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.
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, 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.”
However now “the construction of a new sports facility in Takamatsu, scheduled for completion by 2024, threatens the future of Tange’s mid-century landmark. Without a buyer for the restoration and reuse of the gymnasium, it will likely be demolished.
Local activists [as the Association for the Revitalization of the Kagawa Boat Gym] continue to advocate to preserve the gymnasium, believing that the building’s architectural heritage makes it worthy of being preserved so that it can be handed down to future citizens of Kagawa prefecture.”
The destruction of this iconic and invaluable building will be an irreversible loss. “This enormous vessel, launched while Japan was still struggling to rise from the ashes of World War II, a symbol of dreams and future possibilities, has lost its way. We cannot let it sink. Instead we must rediscover its value, replace its sails and set it off towards a new destination.” Please join the Association for the Revitalization of the Kagawa Boat Gym, WMF, and Docomomo International on raising attention to save this Modern Movement masterpiece!
Sign the petition on Change.org.