Kitakyushu modernist buildings at risk of demolition

Yahata City Meeting Hall Yahata Library
Left: Yahata City Meeting Hall; Right: Yahata Library

Two buildings designed by modernist architect Togo Murano are at risk of demolition as the rising maintenance costs are proving too much for the city’s finances. The Yahata City Meeting Hall (1958) and Yahata Library (1955) are located in Yahatahigashi-ku, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka. In late 2011, the city announced plans to relocate the Yahata Hospital to city-owned land adjoining the hall and library. With the area being designated as a medical area, the city considered repairing the two buildings to bring them up to current building safety codes.

The estimated cost to repair the two buildings, including earthquake-retrofitting, was expected to be around 2.3 billion Yen.

In November 2013, the city announced plans to reduce public facilities by up to 20% over the next 40 years and floated the idea of demolishing the hall and library. Locals are opposed to the demolition and submitted a petition to save the buildings last November.

The nearby Yawata Steel Works were submitted for listing on the UNESCO World Heritage List and the modernist buildings in the surrounding neighbourhood are all important to the local area’s history. The steel works were an integral part of Japan’s heavy industry and were the target of several air raids in 1944-1945.

Togo Murano (1891 – 1984) is widely regarded as one of Japan’s Modern Masters, having completed over 300 projects across the country. Murano was born in Saga Prefecture but moved to Kitakyushu around the age of 10. After graduating from high school he briefly worked at the steel works and later studied architecture at Waseda University in Tokyo.

One of his works – the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace in Hiroshima – was designated as an important cultural property in 2006. Unfortunately, some of his other works are also at risk of demolition. The Senri Newtown Civic Center Building (1964) in Suita City, Osaka, may be demolished this year as local city finances cannot afford to maintain the building.

A long list of Murano’s works (with pictures) can be found here.

*Update: The city has demolished the Yahata Library, but is planning to keep the Yahata City Meeting Hall. 

Fukuoka Hibiki Shinkin Bank Yahata
The nearby Fukuoka-Hibiki Shinkin Bank building in Yahatahigashi-ku (1971) was also designed by Togo Murano.

Source: The Mainichi Shimbun, January 21, 2014.

330 total views, 12 views today