Architects Response to the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami 

Since the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, about 30,000 temporary houses for the victims have been built in three months to meet more than half of the existing needs. On the other hand, there are still 67,000 refugees who are forced to live in more than 1,300 evacuation sites in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures. Besides, the problems for the nuclear power plants in Fukushima Prefecture caused by the tsunami are to be resolved. The disaster is still affecting the lives of the areas.
As an immediate response to the needs of these victims, the professionals in the construction field started the disaster relief activities, which are still ongoing.
We report the overview of such relief aid activities with a special focus on what the architects have been doing to assist the victims.

(Akihiko Omori/ 10,000 World Architects Exhibition)

Paper Partition System for the Evacuation Site 

Shigeru Ban, architect of Volunteer Architects’ Network, volunteered for offering the Paper Partition System (PPS4), which can be furnished reasonably and quickly by using inexpensive paper tubes. The partitions provide disaster victims with privacy and reduce the stress in evacuation centers. Since March 24 through the beginning of June, over 1,000 sets of the partition system had been furnished at the evacuation sites in Tohoku region, and the project is still ongoing.
Ban has been carrying out the various disaster relief activities since the Paper Log House built for the Great Hanshin Earthquake victims in 1995. The first Paper Partition System (PPS1) was created for the refugees of the Niigata Earthquake in 2004, and this time the system became the 4th generation. All the structures are made of paper tubes without any plywood pieces for joints or ropes for braces, which have been developed for fast and easy assembly.

Cardboard Partition and Furniture 

Professor architect Nobuaki Furuya, Waseda University, carried out the aid activities with his current and former students in Tanohata village in Iwate prefecture, where he designed several public buildings with his mentor Prof. Nobuo Hozumi. In 15 days starting April 13, they made partitions in cardboards on site, which actually has been used as a changing room. The box shelves in white cardboard, functioned as partitions, were handy enough to be used in several places in the hall. Between May 2 and 4, Professor Furuya and his students made the furniture adjustable to changing needs of lives at evacuation centres, together with Kazuko Fujie, furniture designer, and Yoko Ando, textile designer. On April 27, the blog of aid activities at Tanohata Village was opened up.

Organdie Partition 

The project executed by Yoko Ando, textile designer, and Izumi Okayasu, lighting designer, plus others. The partition easily furnished at the gymnastic hall by stretching wires between the handrails on the catwalks and hanging soft see-through textile such as organdie over them. By changing permeability of the textile, transparency and sight can be controlled. On April 10, the partition was set at the Budokan of Ishinomaki High School at Ishinomaki City. Ando also joined the aid activities at Tanohata village.

Cardboard Partitions with Messages of Support 

Kakegawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture delivered cardboard partitions to earthquake and tsunami damaged areas on March 31 designed and built by Architect Shinichi Yamashita and the LearnNetwork (LN) community design group, both based in Kikukawa City, along with the support of volunteers from the local Society of Architects and Building Engineers. Messages of support written by children were attached to the cardboard panels. The project produced 600 panels, enough to make 100 to 300 booths.

Cardboard Manufacturer Supplies Portable Partitions 

Ishihara-Kohgei, a company that manufactures and sells cardboard cases based in Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture, has supplied lightweight, portable 2000 x 2000 x 980mm partitions for use as privacy barriers at refugee centers. The partitions were delivered by Japan Self Defense Force personnel based in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Temporary Shelters for Disaster Areas 

On March 23, YKK AP (Hidemitsu Hori, president) donated QS72 (Quick Space 72h) temporary disaster area shelters designed by GK Sekkei (Kazumasa Minami, president) and developed by Daichi Kensetsu (Kurobe City, Toyama Prefecture) to Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital. QS72 is made from exceptionally lightweight, durable, and recyclable polypropylene plastic board. QS72’s standard unit dimensions of 3,160×1,031×2,155mm comprise a flexible and expandable system that can form everything from small individual rooms to assembly spaces and large rooms with toilets and other amenities. QS72 units are hand portable and can be assembled without tools. They have been used to build temporary clinics.

Temporary Woodblock Shelters 

This emergency housing designed by an aid team of Tokai University students under the guidance of architect and Tokai University professor Hirofumi Sugimoto serves as functional housing for disaster area victims until the authorities set up temporary prefabricated housing. It also acts as shelters for volunteers working in disaster areas. Formed from layers of stacked woodblocks, these wooden buildings can be built by students and local volunteers. The team plans to supply electricity by means of solar panels installed on the roof and equip interiors with LED lighting and power sources for television, computers, and other communication devices, as well as terminals for recharging mobile phones. The system was used to set up a community center in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture from April 28 through May 8 and a community center in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture from June 18 through 24.

Universal Wooden Frame 

On April 30, Passive House Japan directed by architect Miwa Mori donated three 2525 Frame Timber Frame Modules (2500x2500x5000mm) for use as refugee shelters in Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture. The shelters are used as kitchens. Each module consists of a 105mm-square cedar frame produced in Miyazaki Prefecture and walls and floors formed from thinned timber.

Bathing Facilities for Disaster Areas 

The ZENKON Bath project of Architect Tadashi Saito of Marugame City, Kagawa Prefecture and skilled volunteers is sending baths from Kagawa to areas in Tohoku damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. The bath is built using conventional wooden post-and-beam construction. Since building the first ZENKON bath in Sanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture on April 5, twelve have been built through June 13. Blueprints are open source.

Banya Project 

Banya (a banya is a station where fisherman prepare for going to sea or to other work) was built to aid the recovery of the fishing industry in Minamisanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture with the support of many people and organizations. It was designed and coordinated by Miyagi University associate professor Yasushi Takeuchi through the university’s Takeuchi Lab with the cooperation of students of Miyagi University, the University of Shiga Prefecture, Tokyo University of Science, Yokohama National University, Tohoku University, Chiba University and the community’s carpenters and fishermen. Timber for building Banya was supplied by the carpenters of Nakashima Komuten of Kashimo Village, Gifu Prefecture. The team purchased damaged plywood from the Seihoku Ishinomaki Factory--also damaged by the earthquake and tsunami--to build the exterior walls and roof. Banya is a 30-square meter one story building. It was completed and given a dedication ceremony on May 7. A community fishermen’s organization uses it as a meeting site and as a place to carry out preparations for oyster farming.

Temporary Framework That Can Be Converted to Permanent Use 

This project by the Solar Design Laboratory led by architect Tadashi Murai uses Aero House custom built homes as temporary housing. A module can be relocated and used as a building’s structural framework. This portable unit consists of a laminated wood frame and plywood panel structure that forms a flexible six-meter span volume without internal structural supports.

Conventional Wooden Post-and-beam Construction That Can Be Converted to Permanent Use 

A housing project for earthquake and tsunami victims led by ZENKON bath project architect Tadashi Saito. Conventional wooden post-and-beam construction using 105mm square timber members (155mm square cross-section) can be converted from temporary to permanent use. The design is open source.

Layered Container Temporary Housing 

Temporary two- and three-story housing using containers conceived by architect Shigeru Ban for the second phase of disaster area relief. Housing is made by stacking twenty-foot shipping containers in checkerboard fashion.

Shipping Container Buildings 

Architect Yasutaka Yoshimura leads the Ex-Container Project. Diverting containers to use as buildings is a way to provide living space and a return to normal life for disaster victims with little time. Since a shipping container cannot be converted to a permanent building as is, in Japan, the frame is redesigned and doors and other unneeded fixtures are removed in a way that conforms to building and design regulations. The result is a functional and affordable building.

Temporary Housing Assembled with the Wood Ring System 

Architect Makiko Tsukada’s wood ring system builds homes and facilities that foster independence for earthquake and tsunami victims. The structural panels, which include interior finishing, are dismantled and transported to the building site. At the building site, they are assembled into a box with two open sides and four wood panels linked in a ring. The box is then enclosed by exterior materials lined with insulation. When several of these “wood rings” are assembled, they expand out into a three-dimensional volume. Since wood rings can be replaced, added, and moved, they can be used to build permanent structures.

Permanent Dwelling Trailer House 

The Mobile Smile Project is led by Yasuhiro Yamashita and other architects.
For the first several months a unit functions as temporary housing. Workers and materials are assembled at a factory in the Tokyo suburbs, where residential units are quickly and cheaply mass-produced. The trailer house/temporary housing is then transported to a temporary site, where it usually can be set up in just three hours. In several years the unit may become a permanent building on the site, in which case infrastructure is put in place for comfortable living; otherwise, the unit is moved to a new location where the occupants can live in comfort. Foundation is installed at the site and the unit becomes a permanent building. Mobile Smile is synonymous with portable housing. The first building is scheduled to be completed by the end of July.

Temporary Housing Using Locally Produced Materials 

Detached temporary housing built in Sumita Town, Kesen County, Iwate Prefecture with locally produced cedar and larch. The project has built three housing complexes, with total of 93 units in Sumita-cho. Construction is carried out by Sumita Jutaku Sangyo, a joint public-private venture corporation. Support columns are 105mm square, exterior walls are panels lined with thermal insulation.

Idea Bank for Disaster Area Living 

The OLIVE wiki project is run by the NOSIGNER design firm. The project shares designs, ideas, and expertise useful to disaster victims upon their needs.

Ideas for Recovering and Revitalizing Communities 

Ideas for recovering and revitalizing communities damaged by the disaster, submitted to the AIJ Council for Urban and Community Design Support, and are available on the internet. Submissions are still being accepted.

Japan Institute of Architects on Facebook 

This Facebook page is a place to exchange information concerning disaster support activities carried out by the JIA.
On March 12, the JIA Disaster Response Bulletin Board set up a Facebook page. The website includes updates about the various activities of member architects.

Sendai Recovery and Support Network 

Archi+Aid is a recovery and support network of architects.
The network promotes a variety of activities, including community recovery and revitalizing architectural culture and education. In July, architects and students are scheduled to do workshops in disaster zones together with people in the community to exchange ideas about how to achieve recovery. A number of internationally recognized architects are involved in the network.

A Project for Recovery Set Up by a University in the Tohoku Region 

The School of Project Design at Miyagi University has set up a project for recovering and revitalizing communities in the areas damaged by the disaster. The goal of the project is for the school’s specialists in a variety of disciplines to contribute to recovery plans for the victims of the disaster in a comprehensive and practical fashion.

Information Archive 

On March 11, the day of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, the Disaster Committee of the Japan Institute of Architects immediately set up and made public a mailing list for exchanging information. The web page created by the Internet working group under the committee collects information, including information on past disasters. In addition, on April 8, the committee set up an archive for exchanging restoration and recovery related information.

Survey Research 

Building Research Institute’s special Website for matters concerning the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. The Website gathers survey research bulletins and results on the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake released as of April 20.

Research Bulletins Issued by the Tohoku Office of the Architectural Institute of Japan 

The website posts research bulletins concerning the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake released by the Tohoku office of the Architectural Institute of Japan. Twenty-one bulletins have been posted from March 20 through May 25.

Translated by Glenn Rich and Junko Kawakami.