A Timber Gymnasium: Renowned Modernist Architect Kikuji Ishimoto’s Early Works in 1940s Shanghai

ZHU Xiaoming, Tongji University, China
TIAN Guohua, Shanxi University, China

Abstract: The historic building cluster located at Tongji University’s Siping Road Campus of Tongji University, which makes up a former Japanese school, was bestowed the Shanghai Outstanding Modern Architecture accolade by the Shanghai municipal government in 2005. The badminton gymnasium of this school was designed by renowned Japanese modernist architect Kikuji Ishimoto in 1942. He was a leading member of the Secessionist Architects Organization and studied at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar with Master Gropius. Against the backdrop of World War II, he executed the concept of the gymnasium by carrying the potential of the wood structure into modernism. 

This paper attempts to interpret the impact on architecture that the history of the campus has had, and with due diligence, also points out that in the 1990s, Japanese schools were demolished in large numbers in Shanghai due to rapid urban development, so only a few are still completely preserved. The badminton gymnasium is one such that falls within this narrow category of salvage, but has, unfortunately, long lacked attention. It is a large-span timber building which crosses cultural and temporal boundaries, providing further evidence on the practice of early Japanese modernist architects in China. Adding to that, it must also be noted that the badminton gymnasium is not an isolated structure, but part of the former Japanese secondary school. Its site has an important symbolic position that has been, regrettably, neglected in the evolution of urban space in Shanghai.

Site plan of the former Japanese secondary school
The badminton gymnasium at the campus
Interior of the badminton gymnasium
The Japanese secondary school in 1942
Professor Li Guohao introduces the general plan to experts from Eastern Germany in the 1950s.
The former Japanese secondary school is on the left.
Cooperative education complex
Axonometric section of badminton gymnasium
The Golden Ratio of the portal frame
Joints analysis
Comparison between truss corner of teaching building (above) and badminton gymnasium (below)
Additional members among portal frames
Badminton gymnasium plan and line of sight analysis
The light rail from 1939 to 1944 connecting Hongkew district with Wujiaochang Square
Comparison of the Japanese 7th ElementarySchool gymnasium (left)
and Tongji University Siping Road Campus’sBadminton gymnasium (right)
Kikuji Ishimoto Studio in Shanghai with the Japanese 7th Elementary School
Today’s traffic line coincides with the demolished light rail line built by the Japanese in the 1940s
A Sino-Japanese exchange activity in 1983s
An international assembly in 2019