Early earthquake warning at 6.02am: my phone screams ‘Jishin desu – Jishin Desu’
While I sit puzzled wondering if this is a test – the earth starts shaking. Considerably, but minor in my experience. I check on the students, a few are panicked and running outside. Mr. Kato – Hotel Boyo President – is reassuring our safety.
Cars start pulling up to the hillside hotel.
Sirens howling, the first Tsunami alarm since 3/2011.
The 7.3M earthquake and aftershocks trigger a stream of messages: “Tsunami relocate to higher ground immediately”. All messages are in Japanese only, non-Japanese speakers (RMIT group) are confused.
NHK TV reports – bilingual information.
Message by my friend telling me about Fukushima – I chose not to tell students. Luckily this is resolved half an hour later.
We leave Kesennuma – Residents remain observing the situation in the bay.
Launching the third installment of an RMIT Landscape Architecture travel studio forthcoming in November 2016, I am (re)discovering my design lineage in Naito Hiroshi who I was fortunate enough to have supervise my PhD.
An overarching hypothesis for the studio is embedded in the idea formulated by Hiroshi Naito who describes the relationship between detail construction, craftsmanship, material and landscape in the concept of “Protoscape”. Naito argues for timeless and purposeful Architecture informed by materiality and detail – specific to each landscape.
“I would like to bring landscape to reside in the details, and to place architecture in an intermediate position between landscape and materials through a perpetual shifting between landscape and materials, in the design process.
To design is none other than to depict the character of the landscape seeking expression in the details.”
Hiroshi Naito, Innerscape
The site for the design exploration is Hashikami Koyo Koko , a site with a potential to inform a new understanding of the relationship of site, landscape, material and form in an affective geometry.
Naito Sensei taught me to observe detail and see relationships emerge; this not only in physical but more so in metaphysical relations of legislative boundaries and ways of which those can be overcome through forms.
Hashikami is the site for a design project that looks at literally learning form the past:
I have sourced aerial photos form 1947 onward to trace landscape patterns, built environment, water systems to understand the relationship of growth over the past 70 years into vulnerable areas.
This is a first raw image of the 1947 vegetation pattern and housing and a 2011 aerial image.
The light blue squares are 1947 building plots, 2011 mostly unharmed. The vegetation pattern of trees (red outline) established in the 1947 illustrates the deforestation in the post WWII period.
In the context of future proofing the vulnerable coastlines of Japan, the conundrum of controlled risk puts before us a choice:
A choice to control risk by constructing a seemingly reliable type of infrastructure such as a high enough wall which might serve a purpose of redirecting potentially deadly swells of ocean. Main questions that arise and are probably unanswerable: how high for any type of protection and where to is the water redirected?
Considering the risk of failure in concrete terms I looked at what happened in Fukushima on the day of the Tsunami. What I pieced together through a few articles showed that the design of the plant’s emergency back up power generator actually caused the crucial cooling system to fail in reactors 1-4. Reactors 5 and 6 were designed at a later stage and there the back up generators were inside the reinforced reactor building.
Even though the events in Fukushima are not complex at all, they are clearly caused by a lack of integration of risk, it becomes evident that control might be a dangerous illusion.