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Different Kind of School

Designed by Matsuya Art Works, the Matsuo Gakuin Toshin Satellite Preparatory School in Japan combines whimsical interiors and lush greenery for a stimulating learning environment, writes Christie Lee.

Different Kind of School

As the great Robert Frost once said: “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.”


When most schools are decked out in concrete, concrete and more concrete, Hyogo-based design studio Matsuya Art Works has decided to do things a bit differently with the Matsuo Gakuin Toshin Satellite Preparatory School.


Taking into account that the school is located in an area populated with girls’ schools, the team at Matsuya Art Works wanted to incorporate a distinct feminine aesthetic into the design without it appearing tacky.


Looking to the Japanese word ‘Kawai’, which has a host of meanings including cute, naïve and unsophisticated, for inspiration, the result is – according to Tetsuya Matsumoto, Executive Designer of Matsuya Art Works – a world that teeters on the brink between reality and fantasy.


“We want students to come in and feel like they’re being transported to another world,” divulges Matsumoto. “We want the design to make a lasting impression on them.”


Two sets of staircases lead to the main reception area. On each side, a salvo of ‘booths’ enables teachers and students to convene and disperse at ease. The back walls of the booths are awash in bright red, yellow or purple, instantaneously injecting colour into the otherwise minimalist decor. Gabled roofs that are usually seen in picture books have also been incorporated. While the pentagonal shape imbues the space with whimsicality, its irregularity also conveys a sense of “imperfection”, the latter feeding into Matsumoto’s idea of ‘Kawai.’

Floor to ceiling glass windows are dominant fixtures, allowing natural sunlight to flood into the school by day. Framing one end of the space is a garden brimming with lush greenery. The wooden desks and pristine white sofas complete the elegant, understated aesthetics.

Matsuya Art Works

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