Created by the merger of four schools in the Hakata area (Reisen, Naraya, Gokusho, and Ohama), Hakata Elementary School has garnered nationwide attention for its unique architecture and educational policies. The building, located on Taihaku-dori Ave., was completed in 2001 on the site of the old Naraya Elementary School. After the City issued a competition-style call for proposals, the design contract was awarded to Coelacanth H&K, a Tokyo-based firm co-owned by Fukuoka architect Kazumi Kudo.
Hakata Elementary School employs what is called open-school design. There are no walls in the classrooms, so students from different classes and of different ages can mix freely. Also, given the space restrictions of the school’s downtown location, its gymnasium was built half-underground, and it has a variable depth swimming pool on the roof, which can be covered and used as a playground when the pool is not in use. The school is also equipped with a solar power generator which not only provides some of the building’s power, it is also serves as a tool for teaching children about the environment.
Another important function of a school is as a community center. At Hakata Elementary School, the library, music room and cafeteria are all open to the public. There is also an auditorium with a stage and amphitheater-style seating that is used for a range of both school-sponsored and community events. This glass-walled auditorium, which affords a clear view of activities to passers-by on the street, has become the symbol of the school. This space is also used to prepare for Dontaku, Yamakasa and other local festivals.
Meanwhile, the Memorial Corner displays mementos from the four schools that were merged to form Hakata Elementary School, including a charred door from the old Naraya Elementary School—a remnant from when Fukuoka was bombed during World War II. In the basement, there is a preserved section of a Kamakura era (1185-1333) stone wall, which was discovered during an excavation, on display. It is open to the public free of charge on weekends. The premises is also home to a kindergarten and community center, so it is always bustling with people of all ages. In the truest sense, Hakata Elementary School is open to the community.