Minami Yamashiro Primary School

Minami Yamashiro Primary School - Completed

Minami Yamashiro is a remote village in the Kyoto Prefecture nestling in the mountainous region south of Kyoto. Recognising a growing decline in rural population, the mayor was anxious to reverse this trend by initiating a project that would reunite and regenerate the local community - a school with an extended role as a community centre. The result is a building that has restored a sense of identity and civic pride.

The 6,200 square metre school has been conceived as 'a big house', offering not only day-time schooling but evening classes and life-long learning for the community's adult population. The heart of the school is a large common hall that mediates between the outdoor playing fields and two levels of flexible classroom spaces arranged within a repetitive framed grid. This multi level top-lit space is similarly organised within the expressed structural grid and contains all circulation and classroom breakout spaces.

Specific spaces for art, science and music classes are grouped at the lower level. A sequence of modular north lights bring light deep into the heart of the building. Bright wall colours within the grid frame are coded for children and adults, defining different areas and functions.

Detailed and implemented by RRP's Tokyo office, this project uses simple, durable, low maintenance materials to achieve elegant results. The building has a strength of its own, yet can be read within the classic Japanese constructional tradition which has long inspired modern architects.

The school is prominently situated on the brow of a hill in the centre of the village enjoying views out over the countryside and beyond. The school was designed to take advantage of natural light and ventilation, and embody a sympathetic relationship to its surroundings and context.

The building provides a new and important focus for the community, creating indoor and outdoor educational and recreational spaces that all of its members can use, regardless of age.

Flexibility is fundamental to the organisation of the programme, in which classrooms can be organised in various configurations to suit the curriculum, and facilities can be used by the school students during the day and by the rest of the community during the evening.

The discipline of the economic structural grid creates a framework, into which modular elements are inserted as expressed forms. Bright colours are used as a way of distinguishing between the various types of spaces.