It is in our nature to be in transit and so should be the spaces we dwell in. Buildings very often live past the functions they were build for and adaptation and change through time are essential to preserve their enriching purpose. Population decline and vast centralization has left an increasing number of schools in Japan abandoned. In Kyoto only, 24 schools have closed down for the past five years and in the next five 30 more await to be deprived of children’s footsteps. Once primal sources of knowledge and experience to the youngest, these school are now embraced by silence and solitude, anticipating their destiny as hosts of new activities or disappearance into the ground. Soujin Elementary School is situated alongside the railway tracks of Kyoto city, which symbolically mark the border between the old, traditional town on the south and the modern, striving for innovation on the north. The school, built in 1873, has been abandoned for 5 years and another 6 from now it is about to become home of Kyoto City University of the Arts.
The project is looking at developing a design proposal to re-adapt the building as an art university and speculate on the ever-changing face of education and the future look of the studio, the gallery, the workshop and their relationships with the artists and designers. This first stage of the project examines and surveys the existing building to understand the site and its context. Looking at the interior as a constantly changing and adapting living organism, this stage of the the project also explores the possibilities of building with a living and vernacular material - earth. Through a series of experiments, the traditional appearances of the material such as colour, shape, texture and transparency have been manipulated to explore further possibilities of designing with it and expose its diverse faces. The honesty in the rawness and irregularity of the material express the nature of Japanese traditional design philosophies and reflect in many ways natural life- provisional, fragile and undergoing continuous metamorphosis. It’s character allows re-formation in time and spatial evolution of the building throughout its existence, both preserving cultural identity and responding to future innovation.