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Noguchi Room at Keio University

Noguchi Room at Keio University
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The Mita Campus of Keio University, whose history spans almost 150 years, was established close to The Tokyo Tower. The campus’ history has run parallel to Japan’s modernization, and many objects have become cultural properties over the course of time. The Mita Campus is small, but today you might call it a treasure house of cultural properties —with many historic buildings, outdoor sculptures, and memorials. The Mita Campus sustained major damage due to air raids during World War II, and the architect Yoshiro Taniguchi was entrusted with the post-war restoration of the devastated campus. He designed many of the buildings with common themes in their appearance, and the view of the post-war campus had a sense of unity.
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These precious buildings have all been destroyed for reasons such as deterioration and the need for new buildings. The last remaining building, Second Faculty Building, was dismantled in 2003, bringing an end to the era of buildings by one of Japan’s exemplary modern architects on the Mita Campus. At present, part of the Second Faculty Building has been reconstructed at a different location, and that is the only remnant of Taniguchi’s architecture. The reason why only this building was partially preserved is because it contained a space with even greater cultural value called the “Noguchi Room,” designed by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi. While incomplete, the reconstruction takes us back to the past together with Noguchi’s sculptural work Mu.
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However, as will be seen in the following Steps, there has been a major loss of the artistic qualities that the Noguchi Room formerly had due to this reconstruction at a different location. What lessons can we draw from this? We will now focus on the Noguchi Room, and learn about the importance of passing on memory and sharing value — tasks which are essential for preserving cultural properties.

Now let’s focus on cultural properties at Keio University. First, in this video, let’s look at the situation on the Mita campus, including the “Ex-Noguchi Room” that is the theme of this course. We’ll learn about architecture and outdoor sculpture, and touch on the rich artistic environment of the Mita Campus.

*This map shows the Mita Campus today. Please refer to this map to visualize the campus and its cultural properties. promenademap The map is distributed by the Keio University Art Center at the “Architecture Promenade,” an architecture event for the public. It indicates the main buildings and outdoor artworks on campus. © Keio University Art Center Click to take a closer look

Cultural properties on the Mita Campus of Keio University

The Mita Campus of Keio University has a history going back almost 150 years. The forerunner of the university was relocated to the former residence of the Shimabara Han (Domain) in 1871, during the lifetime of Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901, founder of Keio University). Many cultural properties on the campus represent not only the virtues of learning, but also that long tradition.

Buildings

Buildings are cultural properties representative of the Mita Campus. The Enzetsu-kan (Public Speaking Hall, dating to the era of Fukuzawa), Old Library, and Jukukan-kyoku (Keio Corporate Administration) have historical value. They also have high artistic value due to rich variations in style—such as, the Enzetsu-kan in quasi-western style, the Old Library in gothic revival, and the Jukukan-kyoku in renaissance revival.

Mita Enzetsu-kan, Completed in 1875
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Old Library (by Sone-Chujo Architect’s Office), Completed in 1912
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Jukukan-kyoku, Completed in 1926
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Like the Old Library (1912), the First School Building (1937) by the Sone-Chujo Architects’ Office draws on the then-current trend of avante-garde modern architecture which shied away from ornamentation. It also has value as a robust building built after the Great Kanto Earthquake. The Keio University Library (New Library, 1981) and the Graduate School Building (1985) were built facing the central plaza by Fumihiko Maki (1928- ) a Japanese modern architect of the 1980s. The Keio University Library faces the plaza that was the center of the former Keio Gijuku. This plaza was surrounded by the Old Library and the Jukukan-kyoku, and Maki’s structural ingenuity in responding to both the old and the new is a point of interest.

First School Building (by Sone-Chujo Architects’ Office), Completed in 1937 (Photo: Ryota Atarashi)
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Keio University Library (New Library, by Fumihiko Maki), Completed in 1981 (Photo: Ryota Atarashi)
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Graduate School Building (by Fumihiko Maki), Completed in 1985 (Photo: Ryota Atarashi)
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Yoshiro Taniguchi (1904-1979)—an architect representative of the Showa period—was a key figure behind many of the buildings on the Mita Campus. Single-handedly, he restored the Mita Campus of Keio University which had been devastated by World War II. He conceived of a “symphony of structural form” on Mita Sanjo (Mita hilltop), incorporating windows reminiscent of the upper and lower windows of the Enzetsu-kan into the design of each building to provide a sense of unity over the entire campus.

“Keio University in Mita, Minato City”, August 13, 1956 (Photo: Suiyo Sato)
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Second School Building (Building No. 5, by Yoshiro Taniguchi), Completed in 1949 (No longer extant, Source: Fukuzawa Memorial Center for Modern Japanese Studies)
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Third School Building (Building No. 4, by Yoshiro Taniguchi), Completed in 1949 (No longer extant, Source: Fukuzawa Memorial Center for Modern Japanese Studies)
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Taniguchi designed many other buildings connected with Keio such as the school building of the Keio Girls Senior High School (no longer extant), the Yochisha at Tengenji (Keio Elementary School), and the Keio University Hiyoshi Dormitories.

Sculptures

In addition to buildings, there are many sculptures on the Mita Campus. We cannot overlook Heiwa kitaru (“Coming of Peace”) by Fumio Asakura (1883-1964), a giant of figurative sculpture. The statue’s location, formerly the front plaza of the university, was where students departed to the front in World War II. Asakura’s youth, standing here, and two other nude youths Seinenzo (“Youth”) and Wadatsumi-zo, express the vitality of youth creating the future, mourn the dead, and assert the nobility of peace. Gakusei (“Student”), Wakai Hito (“Young Person”), and Mu (“Nothing”) by Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) are important works for the history of modern sculpture. These sculptures will be discussed in later Steps, and can be appreciated by anyone. Other modern sculptures are Chishiki no Kaben (“Petals of Knowledge”) and Hoshi e no Shingo (“Signal to the Stars”) by Yoshikuni Iida (1923-2006).

Heiwa kitaru, Fumio Asakura, 1952, Bronze
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Seinenzo, Kazuo Kikuchi, 1948, Bronze
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Wadatsumi-zo, Shin Hongo, 1950, Bronze
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Gakusei, Isamu Noguchi, 1951, Iron
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Wakai Hito, Isamu Noguchi, 1950, Iron
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Mu, Isamu Noguchi,1950-1951, Andesite (Shiraka-ishi, a type of white granite)
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Chishiki no Kaben, Yoshikuni Iida, 1981, Stainless steel
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Hoshi e no Shingo, Yoshikuni Iida, 1984, Stainless steel
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Busts

There are many cultural properties with a close connection to Keio, like the Bust of Yukichi Fukuzawa and the Bust of Kaoru Osanai. The Mita Campus boasts a wealth of culture, almost like an outdoor museum.

Bust of Yukichi Fukuzawa, Kaseki Shibata, 1953, Bronze
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Bust of Kaoru Osanai, Fumio Asakura,1958, Bronze
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Yoshiro Taniguchi (1904-1979)

Yoshiro Taniguchi Taniguchi during his work at the Mita Campus (at right in photo) (Source: Banraisha: A Concerto of Yoshiro Taniguchi and Isamu Noguchi(in Japanese), edited by Makiko Sugiyama, 2006, Kajima Institute Publishing, p. 64, photo by: Yoshio Watanabe)
Taniguchi was an architect representative of the early Showa period. As a flag-bearer of modern architecture in Japan, his specialty was simple designs making ample use of straight lines. He didn’t simply incorporate modern design concepts. He aimed for rational architecture grounded in scientific understanding.

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Invitation to Ex-Noguchi Room: Preservation and Utilization of Cultural Properties in Universities

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