Opening School Designs

Graciously hosted by KPF, Umberto Dindo, FAIA, introduces Kazuhiro Kojima and Kazuko Akamatsu of Coelacanth and Associates.

Daniel Fox

(l-r) Rick Bell, FAIA; Catherine Teegarden, Center for Architecture Foundation; Umberto Dindo, FAIA; Kazuhiro Kojima; Kazuko Akamatsu; Jill Lerner, FAIA; and Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP

Daniel Fox

Event: A Japanese Lesson for Progressive School Design
Location: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, 10.31.12 (Rescheduled)
Speakers: Kazuhiro Kojima and Kazuko Akamatsu; Umberto Dindo, FAIA (Moderator)
Organizers: AIANY Committee on Architecture for Education
Sponsors: Okamura Corporation; Toto USA; Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership; Shuko Koike, Tokyo; and Center for Architecture Foundation

Dovetailing with the Center’s “Edgeless School” exhibition and series of accompanied programming, the Committee on Architecture for Education hosted Coelacanth and Associates Tokyo (CAt). Postponed due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, the lecture was graciously hosted at Kohn Pedersen Fox’s office by Jill Lerner, FAIA, while the Center anxiously awaited the return of electricity. Partners Kazuhiro Kojima and Kazuko Akamatsu presented a handful of recent school projects for the small group who attended the intimate roundtable presentation.

One of the first images CAt showed was “Children’s Games” (1560) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in which they focused on the children playing in the garden, an idea they try to replicate in their schools, ultimately striving for a school without walls. A guiding principle is the concept of “Black and White Space,” a reversed figure-ground plan that denotes programmed versus multi-functional space. The firm aims for a larger percentage of the latter.

CAt achieves the garden-like space in their projects through a number of strategies. They diminish the separation between inside and outside by undulating exterior walls and increasing the number of glazed surfaces. Furthermore, plans are perforated with courtyards and skylights to admit abundant daylight and natural ventilation.

This openness is exaggerated with circulation that leads in an open circuit to teaching, gathering, and other activity spaces, and rarely dead ends. Uto Elementary School in Kumamoto fills the open plan with L-shaped walls to loosely suggest rooms. At the Mihami Utase Elementary School in Chiba, an open plan facilitates team teaching with movable furniture; a blackboard on casters determines the front of the class. Acoustic analyses, Kojima assured, were performed to locate sound buffers and insulation to ensure that adjacent areas are not disruptive.

In conducting workshops with students during the design phases, CAt expands the idea of what a school can be. The results, besides being flexible and sustainable, look like spaces in which one would like to be – and learn.