Designed for Learning
Yokohama International School’s new campus captures the school community’s essence.
Marking a major milestone in its long history as one of the world’s first expressly international schools, Yokohama International School (YIS) has relocated from the original location of the school’s founding in 1924 to a new, purpose-built campus in the Honmoku area of Yokohama.
The campus, designed by world-renowned architects Kengo Kuma & Associates, opened for classes in January and is providing myriad advantages for the YIS learning community.
“Among our most important principles for the new campus design are that all spaces should be considered learning spaces and the learning should be visible throughout the school,” says Head of School Craig Coutts. “Learning in our school takes place continuously and in a variety of settings, not only in classrooms,” he explains, adding that “Kengo Kuma and his team have delivered brilliantly in helping us create an ideal environment to support the YIS way of learning and maintain the close community feel that has always been a YIS hallmark.”
SPACES FOR COLLABORATION
Entering the campus, one is struck immediately by the open, airy feeling and warm wood tones, including the distinctive angled cedar panels of the building facades and louvered ceilings in the cafeteria and other common spaces. Large, open hub areas are positioned on each floor of the main building, and classrooms are connected to shared spaces via 3-meter-wide, sliding glass doors. “In our old campus, teachers and students would find ways to extend the learning beyond the physical classroom, but you would often bump into students working on their projects on the floor of the cramped corridors,” notes Coutts. “Now, with our open hubs and furnishings purposely chosen to accommodate a range of learning styles and scenarios, there is a much freer flow of inquiry and collaboration in and out of classrooms.”
In addition to having a more open, flexible design better suited to its learning programs, the larger total area and floor space of the new YIS campus—roughly 50 percent larger than its former campus—has enabled several major facility improvements that have allowed the school to enhance its programs and introduce new opportunities.
Physical education facilities now include a full-size sports field, double gymnasium and 25-meter indoor heated swimming pool, a rare gem for schools in Japan. “At YIS we believe a successful aquatics program goes beyond swimming laps and learning how to swim,” says Aquatics Program Manager Jay Brownrigg. “Our students learn important life skills and participate in diverse experiences in the pool, including water safety skills, water familiarization and water-based games, along with swim stroke development.”
Performing arts facilities have likewise been expanded, with music classrooms, practice rooms, blackbox, theater-style drama classrooms, and a fully equipped, 411-seat auditorium. “Our students have the opportunity to create and perform their work in a state-of-the-art environment in addition to getting experience in production operations, such as light and sound management, audio recording and greenscreen [special effects] production,” says Peter Noonan, Performing Arts team leader. In visual arts as well, the school’s expanded, open-concept Art and Design studios, including workshop and pottery kiln facilities, are offering new possibilities for students’ creative expression.
“We are proud and excited about our new campus and the new opportunities it is opening up for our students,” says Coutts. “Buildings and facilities are of course important, but what we are happiest about is how well our new home has captured the essence of who we are as a school community and the foundation it has laid for supporting our growth and development in our second century.”