The New Visitor Center at Shofuso: Expanding Site Interpretation Through New Construction

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visitor center
house museum
new construction in historic settings
site interpretation
Historic Preservation and Conservation
History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
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Sukosi, Parima

The design and master plan of the new Shofuso Visitor Center address the topic of new construction in historic settings beyond the existing academic focus on contextualism and style. Considering the low rate of visitation and organizational growth that has put many house museums in a vulnerable state, I believe scholars should extend their judgment pass physical attributes and also assess how new constructions can reinforce the vitality of these sites. By letting both management concerns and place values guide the design, the new building will make the site more meaningful as well as ensure sustainable expansion. Based on the value-based conservation model, the best way to create a successful historic site is to enhance the interpretation of its core values and mission in a way that is relevant to the present day audience and stakeholders. While Shofuso is valued for its authentic Japanese house and garden experience, there are two gaps in the current interpretation of Shofuso. The first is its role in the development of modern western architecture as a major exhibit at the MoMA. The new visitor center design can bridge this gap by exhibiting Shofuso’s relevance to modernism, emphasizing on the four major characteristics that inspired Modernism: flexible room arrangements, strong indoor and outdoor connection, ornamental structural system, and skeleton frame construction. This way, visitors can perceive how the Japanese house has influenced modern buildings around them. The second is the narrative of the Japanese house as a legacy of the 1976 Centennial Exposition, which gets addressed through the reestablishment of an old road as a gateway and the proposal for a temporary pavilion installation.

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Suggested Citation: Sukosi, Parima (2014). The New Visitor Center at Shofuso: Expanding Site Interpretation Through New Construction. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
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