“When you think about the building it’s added onto, the Matsumoto Wing is a powerful statement for modernism. It’s attached to a 1920s neoclassical building, and it’s the first example of this type of curtain wall in North Carolina. It was meant to, in many ways, exhibit the ideals of modernism from a technological standpoint, where the building is free to have complete walls of windows instead of being constructed of heavy load-bearing walls. It made a statement about the School’s progressive ideals,” said David Hill, current Department Head of Architecture, in the College of Design's news. The Brooks Hall addition, unofficially known as the “Matsumoto Wing” was built in 1955. The wing was planned to house space for ceramics, sculpture, freehand drawing, descriptive drawing, painting, landscaping, design rooms for each year (first to fifth year), a tool room, and offices. Fred Carter Williams and Associates served as the designers and George Matsumoto was the consulting director.
George Matsumoto was an architecture professor (1948-1961) and was one of the founding professors of the School of Design. Matsumoto taught second year students in construction material and processes. Matsumoto described the second year being the weed-out year in the architect program. Classes started with about one hundred students, but only about thirty students moved to the third year. Despite the small number these students went on to be brilliant architects. In 1959, ten NC State students won $11,000 out of $18,000 of the total award in the Light for Living Medallion Home Competition. Matsumoto's students competed against students from fifty other colleges and universities. Not only did Matsumoto’s students gain knowledge and prestige, Matsumoto also learned much about himself as an architect and intellectually benefitted from his students. Matsumoto stated in a 1997 interview, “It [teaching] consolidated my own thinking because I had to verbalize what I thought. And it was good discipline for me and there’s some good sharp questioning, too. ...But you are students together. I think I learned more from my students than they did from me.” Along with teaching Matsumoto also was a practicing architect in North Carolina.
In the late 1940s modernist architecture was just beginning. Modernist design principles had not been assessed and consolidated. Therefore, a design school based on modernism was revolutionary. Dean Henry Kamphoefner encouraged faculty to practice; in his view, their work was their research. Matsumoto designed several homes, many of which were for Raleighites such as Banks Talley Jr., J. Gregory Poole, Paul and June Richter, and George Poland. Matsumoto also designed the doctor clinic in Greenville, North Carolina and the IBM Raleigh branch office. Matsumoto was known for open spaces, panels, interior columns, flat roofs, large windows, and free-standing fireplaces. To Matsumoto, performance of the design and originality were important in his work. The design had to work with the people who inhabit it. Matsumoto enjoyed being experimental and believed “modern architecture...should not imitate anything.” Many people, such as those from House and Home and Tar Heel, rooted Matsumoto’s style in his Japanese heritage. Matsumoto was aware of this and stated, “I’m not at all; I’m a product of this country [the United States] but I got to that point by being very logical about how we get our materials and how I wanted to use them.”
Matsumoto’s style led to accolades. In the Nahb-Forum House and Design Competition of 1950 Matsumoto won fourth place national and first place East regional. Matsumoto also won multiple several Award of Merit awards for his houses. And in 1951 he became a member of the American Institute of Architects and later a fellow in 1973. However, Matsumoto’s journey to North Carolina was difficult.
As a Japanese American budding architect in the late 1930s and early 1940s, he had difficulty finding work. But, in order to be an architect one had to apprentice at a firm for three years. Matsumoto’s mother did not believe her son would become an architect in the United States. So the family went to Japan, where Matsumoto’s parents were born, in search of architect opportunities (and to visit extended family). The family left Japan on the uncle’s warning that Japan will be at war with the United States. Leaving became difficult because there were no boats going to America from Japan. Under a friend’s recommendation the Matsumoto family went to China to catch a boat. The family was split up because the Japanese government detained Matsumoto’s mother and younger sister who had Japanese passports, whereas Matsumoto and his older sister had American ones. Matsumoto sailed to America on his own on a military ship. All of the Matsumotos made it back to the United States about ten days before Pearl Harbor was bombed.
But, the situation at home was not promising either. On February 19, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. The order mandated that people of Japanese descent living on the west coast move to internment camps in the southwest and southeast, under the racist idea that they were a threat to America. The family moved from San Francisco to Dinuba in hopes that they would avoid evacuation to internment camps. Despite the Matsumotos’ precautionary measures, they were forced to move to a camp in Poston, Arizona. Matsumoto’s desire to attend university and the federal government’s allowance of prospective students to leave the camps enabled Matsumoto to leave Poston for Missouri.
Matsumoto received his Bachelor’s of Art at Washington University and his Master’s degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art. It was during his professorship at University of Oklahoma that Matsumoto met Henry Kamphoefner, James Fitzgibbon, and Duncan Stuart. The five, including Edward Waugh left Oklahoma for North Carolina to create the School of Design at NC State. Although Matsumoto’s time at NC State has long passed, the “Matsumoto Wing” is a mark of his influence and legacy on NC State.
Original Source References
North Carolina State Special Collections Research Center
NCSU, Libraries, Harrye B. Lyons Design Library Records, 1938-1999 (UA 012.033)
NCSU, University Archives Reference Collection, Biographical Files, 1889-2019 (UA050.003)
NCSU, College of Design, Office of the Dean Records (UA110.01)
George Matsumoto Architectural Drawings and Other Papers 1930-2009 (MC00042)
NCSU, Office of Finance and Administration, Office of the University Architect Records, 1888-2019 (UA003.026)
Secondary Source Resources
Curtis, William J.R., Modern Architecture Since 1900. 3rd edition. London: Phaidon Press, 2016.
“Former Architecture Professor George Matsumoto Dies at 93”. College of Design News. No date. Accessed December 13, 2019. https://design.ncsu.edu/former-architecture-professor-george-matsumoto-dies-93/
Heyer, Paul. Architects on Architecture: New Directions in America. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993.
Robinson, Greg. The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2016.
Wei, William. "Yellow Peril: From Threatening Chinamen to Treacherous Japan". Asians in Colorado: A History of Persecution and Perseverance in the Centennial State. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016.
Hosseininasab, Shima. "Commitment to Excellence: The Story of Henry L. Kamphoefner". North Carolina State University Public History Program. YouTube. December 6, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDgjlCvioKI
Peña-Tajima, Renee. "Yuri & Bill Kochiyama: On the Road in Mississippi". My America or Honk If You Love Buddha. Clip on YouTube. June 2, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApSa2_SW9rw&feature=emb_title
Scott, Jordan. “Detour to Success: George Matsumoto and Japanese Internment”. North Carolina State University Public History Program. YouTube. December 1, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CUR7zHInEI&t=39s