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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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<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.
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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.
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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 
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<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
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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.
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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 
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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 
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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.
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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.

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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.

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