Profound disappointment. After a two-year closure and ¥5.5 billion of public funds, upon visiting the newly renovated Fukuoka Art Museum, I was astonished to see little improvement and bad design. While I understand they wanted to preserve the integrity of the original architect’s work, Kunio Mayekawa, the only significant changes ended up a failure. Let me list them.
1. Old library. The most heart-breaking mistake was the destruction of the old library. It was an elegant, comfortable, and literature-rich space to learn and study about art. As an inferior substitute, visitors will now find several generic-looking bookshelves, two small benches and two computer cubicles in the middle of the reception area. Not only is this “information corner” situated in a noisy, high-traffic area, it also holds a fraction of the original archive.
2. Children’s play space. Instead of utilizing ample space on the first floor, they set up the kids’ play space next to the permanent collection. Try to concentrate and enjoy the art with a kid’s space in such close proximity.
3. Main restaurant and new coffee shop. Beyond the higher prices and stuffy, old-style service, the design changes to the restaurant are minimal and gaudy. Floor carpeting has been substituted with wood-themed tiles, old tables and chairs replaced with Ikea-looking counterparts. Ultimately, the design of both spaces comes off as bad interpretations of Starbucks. Certainly, it lacks the flair or progressiveness of a contemporary art museum.
4. Outdoor space. The second floor of the museum has two large yet barren terraces. These could have been populated with tables and chairs for the general public with mobile kiosks offering fresh coffee and pastries. Instead, the terraces exude the austerity of 1950’s Stalinist architecture.
In summary, the renovation to the Fukuoka Art Museum took over two years and cost the city taxpayers ¥5.5 billion. Yet the superficial changes, cheap interior furniture, and a bad layout and design are not reflective of either the amount of time it was closed or the billions of yen spent. As an art patron, library lover, taxpayer and resident of Fukuoka I feel cheated. At the very least, they need to find a proper, comfortable space for a new library with the elegance, collection, and charm of the old. After all, this museum was built for and paid by the public.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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