Tamatsukuri Kindergarten is a school for early-learning that is located in a forested region of Japan’s Chiba prefecture. For over 40 years the school has dedicated itself to nourishing the souls, minds and bodies of its pupils. In 2022, the school decided to renew its main building and hired architect Naoki Hashimoto and artistic director Haruka Misawa to oversee their vision.
architectural photos by Masao Nishikawa
The structure of the school itself, designed by architect Naoki Hashimoto, is defined by massive archways that create a 360-degree circular loop around the school. Not only do they create visual focal points but the archways function as a liminal space between interior and exterior. The school is surrounded by a forest, as well as an ancient kofun (megalithic tomb) that was discovered so it was important that the architecture helped foster connections between daily life and nature and history.
the archways gently connect the school with nature while the large windows and outdoor hallway allow visibility into the kindergarten
Artist Director Haruka Misawa proposed a signage campaign that not only compliments the circular layout of the school but whose abstract format allows it to be work in numerous locations and functions. From class names and faculty meeting rooms to bathrooms and even outdoor signage, steel circular objects create simple markers that children can easily recognize and identify. And each is unique while maintaining consistency throughout the school. Some signs are made up of a single, circular loop while others are combinations of circular loops that are abstract enough that they can sometime resemble the school’s logo of an elephant, while other time they might resemble a moon or a flower.
signage photos by Masaki Ogawa
the different class names all come from vegetation that’s found on the grounds of the kindergarten: yuzu, sakura, ume, mame and tsubaki
the circular loops have infinite variations and no one sign is alike, and yet they all seem to belong together
the school doesn’t believe in playground equipment, preferring their students to explore and play in nature. Misawa’s signage campaign extends to the outdoors, where the circular forms indicate different areas. Seen below are signs that explain the kofun tombs that were discovered nearby.