Museum of Modern Art Kamakura

One of Japan’s exemplary models of modern architecture – the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura – now stands a chance at being saved from demolition after a recent structural analysis found that it could be reinforced against earthquakes.

The Kanagawa Prefectural Government is also in discussions with the landowner, the nearby Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine, to seek an extension to the land lease.

In late 2013, it was reported that the prefecture decided against renewing the lease due to the high costs of maintaining the buildings and the anticipated costs of retrofitting. The prefecture announced plans to close the museum at the end of March 2016. Under the terms of the lease, any buildings were required to be demolished before returning the land to the Shrine.

The main museum building is Kamakura Hall. This was Japan’s first public museum of modern art and the building itself is highly valued for its architectural significance.

It was designed by modernist architect Junzo Sakakura (1901-1969), and completed in 1951. Sakakura had worked in Le Corbusier’s Atelier in the 1930s. He later worked with Kunio Maekawa and Junzo Yoshimura on the design of the International House of Japan in Roppongi and had also designed the Institute of France-Japan near Iidabashi Station in Shinjuku.

The Kanagawa Board of Education conducted an earthquake-resistant diagnosis of the structure in August 2014. According to the results, the building was at risk of collapse in an earthquake producing a shindo-level of 6 ~ 7, but could be strengthened if additional braces and supports were added to pillars. The cost to reinforce the building is estimated at approximately 210 million Yen (1.76 million USD).

The Shrine and Museum’s grounds are designated as a National Historic Site. Under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, excavations underground are not allowed as they could interfere with artifacts or buried remains dating from the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Luckily, the building can be retrofitted without needing to extend the foundations any further below ground.


2-1-53 Yukinoshita, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture

The Kentsu Shimbun, January 25, 2015.
The Sankei Shimbun, January 24, 2015.