Shun Kanda recently gave a lecture at MIT to a group of students from Tohoku entitled “Power of Place, of People, as One.” He showcased the recently completed Garden Pavilione in Baba-Nakayama and the community-driven initiatives that have developed in the wake of 3/11. Also featured were creative ideas and new typologies for the future of coastal towns in Tohoku as they move to higher ground.
The students are all survivors of the 3/11 disaster who have joined the non-profit organization, Beyond Tomorrow. They are visiting the US to obtain first-hand accounts from leaders in New Orleans, New York, and Washington D.C. Their Boston visit was sponsored by the Fish Family Foundation.
A similar lecture was also given at University of Tokyo on July 29th, at the start of the Japan 3/11 Design Workshop.
The Initiative’s efforts in creating disaster resiliency was the main feature in the latest edition of MIT School of Architecture + Planning‘s newsletter publication, PLAN 81. The story showcases our work from last summer’s workshop to the present in response to the “urgent need for community centers to facilitate social interaction and serve as a symbol for the town’s resurgence of hope.”
“How successful are you in actually getting the displaced to (discuss?) relocate(ing) their rebuilding efforts higher?” is the question posed to us by friend of the Initiative, Ken Diener. Another question in a similar vein is, “What types of warnings would it take to convince people to move to safer ground,” locations safe from the known historic hazards of tsunamis?
The excerpted article below — originally published in CBS news on April 6th, 2011 — showcases the 600-year old stone markers that have long warned of tsunamis:
In this March 31, 2011 photo, a tsunami survivor walks past a centuries-old tablet that warns of danger of tsunamis in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, Iwate Prefecture, northern Japan. (AP)
MIYAKO, Japan – Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan’s destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day.
“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”
It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan’s northeastern shore.
Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries.
The markers don’t all indicate where it’s safe to build. Some simply stand — or stood, washed away by the tsunami — as daily reminders of the risk. “If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis,” reads one. In the bustle of modern life, many forgot.
More than 12,000 have been confirmed dead and officials fear the death toll could rise to 25,000 from the March 11 disaster. More than 100,000 are still sheltering in schools and other buildings, almost a month later. A few lucky individuals may move into the first completed units of temporary housing this weekend.
The video from Professor Shun Kanda’s presentation at the MIT Media Lab’s ‘Japan Under Reconstruction’ symposium on April 7th, 2012, is now available to view online. Kanda spoke at the Symposium, along with Joi Ito, Hirosih Ishii, and Kent Larson from the MIT Media Lab, along with Hirotaka Takeuchi from the Harvard Business School.
MIT DUSP student Samira Thomas and MIT ACT Professor Jegan Vincent de Paul with students in Minami-Sanriku.
In the last week of March 2012, a small group of students from the MIT ACT class ‘Artistic Intervention: Creative Responses to Conflict and Crisis,’ taught by Jegan Vincent de Paul, visited Minami-Sanriku over their spring break to present gifts to the people there. The gifts were conceived and designed by students this past Fall. The gift called “There is a village” was given to a group of 10 primary school-age children on Thursday March 29th in the town of Minami Sanriku. It was given at a children’s care center located within a temporary housing area in the town. It was given by MIT ACT Prof. Jegan Vincent de Paul, Samira Thomas (an MIT student) and Professor Yoshihiro Hiraoka from Miyagi University in Japan. The second gift titled “A Ritual for Memory” was received by Prof. Yoshihiro Hiraoka and will be given to a junior high school class when they return to school from spring break this month. The giving was facilitated by Prof. Shun Kanda of MIT and Prof. Yoshihiro Hiraoka of Miyagi University, who are both Collaborating Directors of the MIT Japan 3/11 Initiative.
Take a virtual journey on the Kesennuma Line, the East Japan Railway (JR) local line that runs up the coast in Miyagi Prefecture. It was severely damaged or – in some cases – completely destroyed during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. This video was filmed in 2009 with the last stop being Utatsu, where reconstruction is currently underway in conjunction with the community.
The Initiative has been in the public eye, most recently as a feature in Architectural Record. The article is a thoughtful and thorough overview of the group’s activities to date. Accompanying the article is a slideshow with some great photos, showcasing important developments from Year One.
The Japan 3/11 Initiative was featured today in MIT News, showcasing upcoming projects for Year Two. Check out the link for updates as well as an interview with Shun Kanda on the intent behind the Initiative.