Rakuo Elementary School's "Book World", designed by pupils under the guidance of Prof Monnai's lab, wins a Kids Design Award (3 August 2015)

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On 3 August, a library renovation project undertaken at Kyoto Municipal Rakuo Elementary School from 2013 through 2014 as a collaboration between the school's sixth-grade pupils and Professor Teruyuki Monnai's laboratory was announced as a winner of the Economy, Trade and Industry Minister's Award (Excellence Award) in the "Kansei and Creativity" ("sensitivity and creativity") category of the Ninth Kids Design Awards.

The project commenced in the summer of 2013, when the Monnai Laboratory (Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Engineering) agreed to become involved in Rakuo Elementary's plan to renovate the "Book World" section of its library, with all of the school's 93 sixth-graders assigned to contribute design ideas.

With the objective of transforming the section from a place for reading to one for "doing things", the project comprised four design workshops for children, held over August-November. The participants worked in nine brainstorming groups, coming up with ideas based on which members of the Monnai Lab built three large-scale models, each depicting one of the three worlds/stories that would collectively form the new Book World: "Future and the Universe", "Living and Home", and "Nature and a Grassy Field". The sixth-graders then reviewed and discussed the finished models, contributing additional ideas to help finalize the design for the facility.

The renovated Book World opened in Spring 2014 with numerous results of the children-led design process on full display -- among them a "ladybug table" and a "stage tunnel".

The award citation reads: "Working with an existing section of a school library, the Book World Design Project at Rakuo Elementary School has succeeded in building a space for active learning -- a place for not just reading but also viewing, experiencing, exhibiting, creating, and presenting. In addition to the excellent spatial design of the completed facility, the initiative is noteworthy for the unique process that it entailed; namely, school children playing key roles in the planning and design phases of renovation, fully participating in the creation of the space they desired. This aspect of the project -- a design approach focused on process and on fostering creativity -- makes Book World worthy of special recognition."

All of those who took part in the KU-Rakuo collaboration, including the 93 Rakuo sixth-graders, responded to the award announcement with great excitement and joined together to celebrate this milestone.

Book World as viewed from the library entrance

Colorful chairs, tables with trapezoidal and hexagonal tops that can be fitted together, and a large projection screen

Children giving shape to their ideas (during one of the design workshops)

An observation platform and a hiding place in one, dubbed the "stage tunnel", designed based on ideas contributed by children

Professor Monnai (right) with members of his laboratory team at the awards ceremony (in Roppongi Hills)

Professor Monnai presenting during the symposium held after the ceremony

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