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Preservation: Learning From the Noguchi Room Mistakes

A previous Step in the Invitation to Ex-Noguchi Room: Preservation and Utilization of Cultural Properties in Universities Course shows us how relocation led to a major loss of the artistic value and meaning of the former Noguchi Room. In this Step, we’ll introduce preservation and awareness-raising efforts by the Art Center aimed at ensuring tragedy like this doesn’t happen again.
© Keio University

A previous Step in the Invitation to Ex-Noguchi Room: Preservation and Utilization of Cultural Properties in Universities Course shows us how relocation led to a major loss of the artistic value and meaning of the former Noguchi Room. In this Step, we’ll introduce preservation and awareness-raising efforts by the Art Center aimed at ensuring tragedy like this doesn’t happen again.

Keio University Art Center Architectural Archive

At the Keio University Art Center, a Noguchi Room Archive project was launched in 1998 before dismantling of the Noguchi Room. For this project, we assembled a comprehensive research archive of materials relating to the historical cultural properties of Keio, with special focus on the Noguchi Room. Archive activities include digitization of building photos and architectural drawings.

The ‘Architecture of Keio’ project, established as a branch of the Noguchi Room Archive, focuses on basic research and consolidation of records/materials on architecture at the university, and dissemination/sharing of information while collaborating with archive activities. In particular, the project advocates a ‘user-oriented architecture archive’. Due to the nature of architecture—it can only function by being used—the archive is distinctive in that its documenting activities include user memories and viewpoints. The Architecture of Keio project also works in areas unconnected with the Noguchi Room like photographing buildings that will be demolished.

Archive Room Archive Room of the Keio University Art Center

Preservation Efforts at the Archive

It was a big shock that the value of a cultural property like the Noguchi Room was not widely shared, even at a university with a department of Aesthetics and Art History, and this led to its loss. To learn that lesson, and ensure the same thing does not happen again, the Keio University Art Center is currently engaged in restoration/preservation and dissemination/awareness-raising activities relating to buildings at the university.

Every year, we hold an ‘Architecture Promenade’ featuring a guided tour of buildings with historical and artistic value on the Mita Campus. At that time, we allow participants to visit the Enzetsu-kan and Ex-Noguchi Room, which are not ordinarily open to the public, and every year there are many participants. Current students often say, “I didn’t know there were so many great buildings at Keio.” This is an opportunity to renew our understanding of the importance of awareness-raising.

Promenade Architecture Promenade in 2018. Every year, the Architecture Promenade has many participants. This event is indispensable for raising awareness of the value of buildings on the Mita Campus © Keio University Art Center

Noguchi Room Revisited

We also held a “Noguchi Room Revisited” exhibition in 2015. Here, we exhibited drawings and other documents, to refresh memories of the former Noguchi Room. At the same time we opened buildings on campus to the public, including the Ex-Noguchi Room. This was a precious opportunity for people to see the two faces of the Noguchi Room: the past and the present.

Noguchi Room Revisited “Noguchi Room Revisited” exhibition held in the Keio University Art Space in 2015

Memories of the Ex-Noguchi Room and its Users

In collaboration with the Hijikata Tatsumi Archive of the Art Center, we hold Butoh performances in the Ex-Noguchi Room. We also hold workshops, some of which will be described in detail in Week 2. In this way, we are working to create new memories of buildings through use, while being careful to strike a balance with preservation.

Keio has campuses other than the Mita Campus, and each has buildings of value. As a medium, architecture is intrinsically linked with utility, so some buildings will inevitably be destroyed no matter how hard we try. A major objective of our archiving projects, the Noguchi Room Archive and the ‘Architecture of Keio’, is to prepare for such outcomes by archiving documentary photos, drawings, and memories of users. This will allow us to recreate past conditions at any time.

We are currently expanding beyond Keio, taking documentary photos of valuable off-campus buildings at risk of being lost, and giving off-campus lectures on buildings at other universities. Important buildings are being demolished more frequently all over Japan. This is especially true of modern architecture due to marked deterioration after half a century. Going forward, there are high expectations in order to further the scope of the activities of each archive.

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

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