TORONTO, ON (September 20, 2017) – The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) is pleased to announce Tokyo-based Tezuka Architects’ Fuji Kindergarten as the winner of the 2017 Moriyama RAIC International Prize.

The Prize winner was revealed on September 19, 2017, during an awards ceremony and gala at the historic Carlu in Toronto, attended by about 250 members of the Canadian and international architecture community.

"I feel now there is someone who understands this project well. I think it's quite a unique prize because it's about contributing to society,” comments the 2017 Moriyama RAIC International Prize winner, Takaharu Tezuka of Tezuka Architects. "It looks like a simple structure. But it's a layering of many ideas combined."

Tezuka Architects’ Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo, Japan, was selected by the seven-member jury following site visits to each of the four shortlisted projects. In addition to the Fuji Kindergarten, the finalists include 8 House in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Bjarke Ingels Group; the Melbourne School of Design in Melbourne, Australia, by John Wardle Architects and NADAAA; and the Shobac Campus in Nova Scotia, Canada, by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects. The Prize received submissions from 17 countries across six continents.

“It is a pleasure to congratulate the winner of the second Moriyama RAIC International Prize and to recognize their devotion to architecture that imagines new possibilities for people,” said Raymond Moriyama, CC, O. Ont., FRAIC.

“This is a prize that will continue to acknowledge the important work of transformative architecture worldwide and its designers,” said Moriyama. “No matter the scale or size of the building, the Prize provides an opportunity to recognize design qualities which make a positive contribution. Society is evolving, we hope, toward more equality and social justice. Architects can provide leadership by creating inspiring buildings in service to a community.” 

Moriyama added: “The four projects shortlisted are all special. Their designers have done extraordinary work, and I can see the passion, intelligence, heart, and hard work which went into them.” 

“What perhaps sets the Fuji Kindergarten apart is the sheer joy that is palpable in this architecture,” said Barry Johns, FRAIC, Jury Chair and a Trustee of the RAIC Foundation. “It is one of those rare buildings—comprised of a geometric plan, a single section, a roof, and a tree—that in their utter simplicity and unfettered logic magically transcend the normal experience of learning. This winning project should give all architects around the world reason for great optimism that humanity benefits enormously from the creation of such a deeply simple and yet sophisticated architecture of unquestionable redeeming value.”

“This prestigious prize gives voice and attention to meaningful Canadian shared values such as openness, respect, compassion, equality, and justice,” said RAIC First Vice-President Michael Cox, FRAIC. “These qualities are what make architecture a real force in light of the many crucial environmental and social issues that challenge contemporary society.

“Each of the shortlisted projects is unique and original,” said Cox. “They are very much about an architecture that accomplishes a social mission as it encourages interaction among residents, students, or schoolchildren. These projects create a framework for people’s lives.”

The Prize, which was established in 2014 by Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama along with the RAIC and the RAIC Foundation, consists of a monetary award of CAD $100,000 and a sculpture designed by Canadian designer Wei Yew. It celebrates a single work of architecture that is judged to be transformative within its societal context and reflects Moriyama’s conviction that great architecture transforms society by promoting social justice and humanistic values of respect and inclusiveness. Awarded every two years, the Prize is open to all architects, irrespective of nationality and location, and the winner is selected in an open, juried competition.

Located in Tokyo, Japan, since 2007, the Fuji Kindergarten is a one-story, oval-shaped kindergarten that can accommodate over 600 children running freely around its open-air roof. The building is designed to support the Montessori education method, which encourages independence, and for a climate that allows the children to be outdoors much of the year. The elliptical building, which houses classrooms, offices, and support spaces, surrounds an open playground that serves as the visual, functional, and spiritual focus of the school. The place for play is augmented by an elliptical upper deck that overlooks the playground and forms the roof of the school building. The rooftop itself becomes the play equipment for the children, some of whom run up to six kilometers a day.

The classrooms and offices are open and defined only by partial-height partitions. Segmented sliding-glass walls permit a free flow of children and adults between inside and outside. The principal reports that the school’s approach encourages calmness and focus, including in children with behavioral disorders.

“What we want to teach through this building are values of human society that are unchanging, even across eras,” said Tezuka Architects in their submission statement. “We want the children raised here to grow into people who do not exclude anything or anyone. The key to Fuji Kindergarten was to design spaces as very open environments, filled with background noise. When the boundary disappears, the constraints disappear. Children need to be treated as a part of the natural environment.”

Three pre-existing Japanese zelkova trees were incorporated into the design of the school, emerging through the structure for children to climb on. The openings are protected by heavy nets, creating a soft cover on which the children can play, and through which they can look to the tree trunks and playground below. The architectural details were designed at the scale of a child, from the handrail to the door fittings and the size of the nets around the trees. Skylights, stairs, and a slide form close connections between the two levels of play.

“The space by Tezuka Architects took a new look at kindergartens,” said the jury. “There is no hierarchy to the place; the teachers and the kids all have an equal status architecturally, which is a direct result of the form and the way the whole building opens up. It is an egalitarian, comfortable, and physically stimulating place for children.”

The jury noted: “The Fuji Kindergarten demonstrates that architecture can profoundly enhance lives through understanding the cultural needs of the day, and responding through intellectual exploration and manifestation through the craft of architecture. This is an extraordinarily positive place—a giant playhouse filled with joy and energy, scaled to a broad range of the human condition.”

The jury for the 2017 Moriyama RAIC International Prize consists of: 

  • Monica Adair, MRAIC: Co-founder of Acre Architects and 2015 Recipient of the RAIC Young Architect Award.
  • Manon Asselin, MRAIC: Co-founder of Atelier TAG and Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Montreal.
  • Bryan Avery, MBE: Founder of Avery Associates Architects, author, and lecturer. Deceased July 4, 2017.
  • George Baird, FRAIC: Founding Principal of Baird Sampson Neuert Architects; former Dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto; and 2010 Recipient of the RAIC Gold Medal.
  • Peter Cardew, FRAIC: Founder of Peter Cardew Architects and 2012 Recipient of the RAIC Gold Medal.
  • Barry Johns, FRAIC: Jury Chair and member of the RAIC Foundation.
  • Li Xiaodong, Hon. FAIA: Winner of the inaugural Moriyama RAIC International Prize.


David Covo, FRAIC, Associate Professor of Architecture at McGill University, served as Professional Advisor to the jury.