Tohyama Kindergarten | The Plan
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Tohyama Kindergarten

Takahashi Ippei Office

The prefecture of Miyagi in Japan was one of the areas hardest hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. So Ippei Takahashi’s project for the Shichigahama Tohyama nursery school carries a much greater significance than simply building a new public service facility.
It is buoyed by a deep desire to help rebuild the area with a structure that signifies unity and hope.
The programme had to meet two orders of requirements. On the one hand, it had to be an expression of community and universality. On the other, it had to meet the many specific requests made by citizens during a keen participative procedure. The extremely spare, essential design has incorporated both requirements. The symmetry of the square inner courtyard gives physical form to the need felt by the community for an anchoring core. The irregular fragmented external perimeter voices the many different requests put forward by citizens. It also makes tangible the whole process of ideation and construction. Spatial distribution is on a single level around the central court. Keeping everything at ground level reinforces occupants’ sense of belonging to a wider community and being in direct contact with the surrounding urban and natural environment. The dual demands made on the building are also reflected in the façades. Courtside, the glazed portions give views onto the city beyond. In contrast, the irregular shaped outer perimeter is clad in reflective stainless steel sheets. Its glimmering surface almost conceals the entrance to the building so that the façade becomes a sort of threshold through which to enter into a different world, leaving behind reality.
The interiors are a succession of open and closed volumes. The ample roof overhang creates a portico that serves both as a circulation route to the outside world and a protected play area.
The floor plan is a contemporary take on ancient Japanese building traditions. The central court invokes the huge empty...

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