written by:
September 27, 2011

A new word has been added to the vocabulary of Japanese architects: 3/11. That's the date when an earthquake and tsunami killed 20,000 people, crashed through over 900,000 buildings along 300 miles of coastline, and sparked a nuclear crisis that is undermining faith in conventional energy systems. It's also shorthand for an irrevocable line between old ways of thinking and new. Suddenly energy independence and disaster resistance are mainstream design priorities—and architects are taking on the challenge with a vengeance.

"Especially those in the younger generation see the reconstruction as their calling," said Kumiko Matsuki, art producer at Tokyo's Orie Gallery, one of several venues currently showing proposals for a safer, more sustainable rebuild. The Orie exhibit features ideas from eight teams of top young architects, and heads next to the heavily-hit cities of Sendai, in Miyagi Prefecture, and Soma, in Fukushima. We've posted five of the proposals here, along with five from another exhibit.

Fishing villages nestled into tiny mountain-backed bays suffered some of the worst tsunami damage. Here's Osaka architect <a href="http://www.r-a-architects.com/">Ryuichi Ashizawa's</a> vision of a futuristic fishing town. Crescent-shaped breakwaters serv
Fishing villages nestled into tiny mountain-backed bays suffered some of the worst tsunami damage. Here's Osaka architect Ryuichi Ashizawa's vision of a futuristic fishing town. Crescent-shaped breakwaters serve triple duty as a tsunami barrier, a fishing pier, and an energy source, with built-in turbines capturing wave power. Image courtesy of Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects & Associates.
1 / 14
Many communities are thinking about relocating to higher ground. Ashizawa took a hint from ancient cave dwellings and tucked homes into a reinforced mountainside that overlooks the bay from a safe distance.<br /><br />
Image courtesy of Ryuichi Ashizawa A
Many communities are thinking about relocating to higher ground. Ashizawa took a hint from ancient cave dwellings and tucked homes into a reinforced mountainside that overlooks the bay from a safe distance. Image courtesy of Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects & Associates.
2 / 14
Like a live-in chimney that funnels air upwards through the rooms, this high-ground home concept from Tokyo's <a href="http://www.nakam.info/english/index.html">Hiroshi Nakamura </a> puts a 40-foot elevation gap to use for natural heating and cooling. In
Like a live-in chimney that funnels air upwards through the rooms, this high-ground home concept from Tokyo's Hiroshi Nakamura puts a 40-foot elevation gap to use for natural heating and cooling. In summer, air passes over a cool pool of rainwater in the lowest level before circulating upwards; in winter, the lowest level becomes an enclosed sunroom heating air before it rises. Photo by Winifred Bird.
3 / 14
Moving to higher ground makes sense from a safety perspective, but history, culture, and convenience tie communities to the sea. <a href="http://www.sako.co.jp/main/en/news.html">Keiichiro Sako</a>, who works from both Tokyo and Beijing, has a (slightly f
Moving to higher ground makes sense from a safety perspective, but history, culture, and convenience tie communities to the sea. Keiichiro Sako, who works from both Tokyo and Beijing, has a (slightly far-fetched) solution: 65-foot-high oval Sky Villages located near the shore. Image courtesy of SAKO Architects.
4 / 14
The platforms are accessible by spiraling ring roads and have room for factories underneath.<br /><br />Image courtesy of SAKO Architects.
The platforms are accessible by spiraling ring roads and have room for factories underneath.Image courtesy of SAKO Architects.
5 / 14
<a href="http://www14.plala.or.jp/mfas/fuji.htm">Masahiro and Mao Harada</a> offer up something much simpler: a set of concave-convex parks created by scooping out huge circles of earth. When a tsunami rolls in, villagers can escape to the manmade hill wh
Masahiro and Mao Harada offer up something much simpler: a set of concave-convex parks created by scooping out huge circles of earth. When a tsunami rolls in, villagers can escape to the manmade hill while the cup below absorbs some of the water. Photo by Winifred Bird.
6 / 14
The tsunami has made the already serious problem of rural depopulation much, much worse. <a href="http://jun-igarashi.web.infoseek.co.jp/en/top.html">Jun Igarashi</a>, who lives in a small northern town himself, envisions town planning patterns in which "
The tsunami has made the already serious problem of rural depopulation much, much worse. Jun Igarashi, who lives in a small northern town himself, envisions town planning patterns in which "inhabitants become ever happier and more comfortable as their numbers dwindle." His Forest Island draws remaining homes together in high-density clusters, while the abandoned periphery grows into a forested buffer between village and farmland. Image courtesy of Jun Igarashi Architects.
7 / 14
Sometimes big reconstruction projects leave gaps that only small structures can fill—and no one does small better than Japanese architects. Recently, 15 of them presented ideas for how pint-sized buildings can help rebuild both physical and emotional comm
Sometimes big reconstruction projects leave gaps that only small structures can fill—and no one does small better than Japanese architects. Recently, 15 of them presented ideas for how pint-sized buildings can help rebuild both physical and emotional communities. Their tiny models—five of which we've posted here—were on display at the Study in Smallness exhibit produced by Team Roundabout at Tokyo's hiromiyoshii roppongi gallery. This little public bathhouse by Maki Onishi has a skylight for stargazing.Image courtesy of ryuji fujimura architects.
Courtesy of 
8 / 14
<a href="http://tat-o.com/">Yu Shimada's</a> SO(C)I(A)L KITCHEN provides a place for villagers to get together and make miso, rice cakes, or other foods traditionally cooked with friends. <br /><br />
Image courtesy of ryuji fujimura architects.
Yu Shimada's SO(C)I(A)L KITCHEN provides a place for villagers to get together and make miso, rice cakes, or other foods traditionally cooked with friends. Image courtesy of ryuji fujimura architects.
Courtesy of 
(C) by Caplio GX100 User
9 / 14
The unfurling open-air structure is made of rammed earth, which even amateur builders can mold into any shape that suits their fancy.<br /><br />
Image courtesy of ryuji fujimura architects.
The unfurling open-air structure is made of rammed earth, which even amateur builders can mold into any shape that suits their fancy. Image courtesy of ryuji fujimura architects.
10 / 14
Jun Igarashi showed up in this show as well, where he noted that displaced people need a private space to escape to before they can enjoy being together. Thus his "Little Heaven," made from Styrofoam blocks stacked into a cube and covered with waterproof
Jun Igarashi showed up in this show as well, where he noted that displaced people need a private space to escape to before they can enjoy being together. Thus his "Little Heaven," made from Styrofoam blocks stacked into a cube and covered with waterproof gum sheeting. The design allows disaster victims to build a warm, cheap room of their own in any sliver of open space. Image courtesy of ryuji fujimura architects.
Courtesy of 
11 / 14
This simple idea for making communal life in converted gyms more pleasant comes from <a href="http://nousaku.web.fc2.com/index.htm">Fuminori Nousaku</a>. Instead of dividing the space with cardboard partitions, as was common after the tsunami, wooden boxe
This simple idea for making communal life in converted gyms more pleasant comes from Fuminori Nousaku. Instead of dividing the space with cardboard partitions, as was common after the tsunami, wooden boxes are stacked at one end for use as bedrooms. The rest of the space is shared. Image courtesy of ryuji fujimura architects.
Courtesy of 
12 / 14
A lot of homes were damaged, but not destroyed, by the quake and tsunami. <a href="http://www.matsuokasatoshitamurayuki.com/">Satoshi Matsuoka and Yuki Tamura</a> suggest attaching small additional rooms to busted-out windows and collapsed walls.<br /><br
A lot of homes were damaged, but not destroyed, by the quake and tsunami. Satoshi Matsuoka and Yuki Tamura suggest attaching small additional rooms to busted-out windows and collapsed walls. Image courtesy of ryuji fujimura architects.
13 / 14
The newly expanded homes may evoke <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Schylling-PANIC-PETE-SQUEEZE-TOY/dp/B001R57O88">rubber squeeze dolls</a> under extreme pressure, but they certainly take advantage of all available open space (in this drawing dark blue are
The newly expanded homes may evoke rubber squeeze dolls under extreme pressure, but they certainly take advantage of all available open space (in this drawing dark blue areas represent additions). Photo by Winifred Bird.

Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

14 / 14
Fishing villages nestled into tiny mountain-backed bays suffered some of the worst tsunami damage. Here's Osaka architect <a href="http://www.r-a-architects.com/">Ryuichi Ashizawa's</a> vision of a futuristic fishing town. Crescent-shaped breakwaters serv
Fishing villages nestled into tiny mountain-backed bays suffered some of the worst tsunami damage. Here's Osaka architect Ryuichi Ashizawa's vision of a futuristic fishing town. Crescent-shaped breakwaters serve triple duty as a tsunami barrier, a fishing pier, and an energy source, with built-in turbines capturing wave power. Image courtesy of Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects & Associates.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016
the blue lagoon iceland geothermal spa hotel water visitors
The famed geothermal spa outside Reykjavík, Iceland, is entering a major new phase—paving the way for the area’s first five-star hotel.
June 19, 2016
heaven on earth maya lin topography what is missing california academy sciences wood video
A new monograph by Rizzoli explores the memorial project by the renowned artist.
June 19, 2016
gable game austin texas cantilevered home facade windows upper level car port
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to indoor/outdoor living. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
June 18, 2016