Established in 2014 by Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama along with the RAIC and RAIC Foundation, the biennial 2017 Moriyama RAIC International Prize consists of a monetary award of $100,000 and a sculpture designed by Canadian designer Wei Yew. It celebrates a single work of architecture that is judged to be transformative within its societal context and expressive of the humanistic values of justice, respect, equality and inclusiveness.
The 2017 recipient, the 1,419 sq. m Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo by Tezuka Architects, is a one-storey oval-shaped kindergarten with an enrolment of 600 children, aged two to six, located in the Tokyo suburb of Tachikawa. The rooftop encloses an internal courtyard and serves as an open-air play deck where children are free to run in circles, some covering six kilometres a day.
They climb the three pre-existing zelkova trees that grow through the structure and can descend from the roof to the ground on a slide. There is not a single piece of play equipment on the roof. The rooftop itself becomes the play equipment.
The building is designed to support the Montessori education method which encourages independence and freedom. The key to Fuji Kindergarten is spaces being open environments. Between April and November, the sliding doors are completely open. The distinction between where outside stops and inside starts doesn’t apply. There are no walls between spaces and, therefore, no boundaries. There are only boxes that are used as furniture to indicate areas.