Kamakura modernist museum to re-open this June

After a lengthy refurbishment and retrofit, the former Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, will officially re-open as the Kamakura Bunkakan Tsurugaoka Museum on June 8. The iconic modernist building was designed by Junzo Sakakura (1901-1969) and opened in 1951 as Japan’s first public museum of modern art.

The museum sits within the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine. It closed its doors in March 2016, with the Prefecture planning to demolish it and end the land lease with the Shrine. However, news of its planned demolition resulted in an uproar from those wanting to protect the architecturally significant building. 

Renovations started in September 2017 and were completed last month. While the appearance has been preserved, significant earthquake retrofitting and repairs were required. The bracing for the ground floor walls was originally built into the Oya-stone walls. These walls had to be removed and replaced with steel walls with a facade of Oya stone tiles overlaid to recreate the original design. One design change of note was to the inner courtyard which previously had a Kokeshi doll sculpture by Isamu Noguchi. The black stone pavers, a later addition, were replaced with exposed aggregate and stone-inlaid concrete that is true to the original design. Retrofitting and renovations were estimated to cost approximately 210 million Yen. 

About the architect

Sakakura worked in Le Corbusier’s atelier in Paris for seven years, obtaining the position of studio chief.  He returned to Japan in 1936 and opened his own architectural practice in 1940. One of his first works to come out of his studio was the Iihashi Residence built in 1941. The house was located in Setagaya, Tokyo, before being relocated in 2007 to its current location in Karuizawa where it operates as the Domaine de Mikuni restaurant. In 1953 he designed artist Taro Okamoto’s residence in Omotesando. The house is now open as a memorial museum. In 1959 he worked with Le Corbusier on the celebrated National Museum of Western Art in Ueno, Tokyo.

One of his more celebrated works is the International House of Japan which was designed in collaboration with Kunio Maekawa and Junzo Yoshimura.


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

The Asahi Shimbun, April 18, 2019.
The Mainichi Shimbun, April 18, 2019.

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