Event: Dialogues for a New Japan — Japan: Brainstorming
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.24.11
Speakers: Yasuhisa Kawamura — Deputy Consul General of Japan in New York; Toru Hasegawa — Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP); Joji Kurumado, JIA — General Manager, Takenaka Corporation; Mutsuro Sasaki, JIA — Founder, Sasaki Structural Consultants; Motoko Shoboji, AIA, LEED AP BD+C — Member, Global Dialogues Committee.
Panelists: Joji Kurumado; Mutsuro Sasaki; Paul Katz, FAIA, HKIA — Managing Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; Clifford Pearson — Deputy Editor, Architectural Record; Leslie Robertson, Hon. AIANY — Leslie E. Robertson Associates; Rafael Viñoly, FAIA, JIA, SCA, Int. FRIBA — Principal/Lead Designer, Rafael Viñoly Architects
Moderator: Toru Hasegawa
Introduction: Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP — 2011 AIANY President & Principal, Helpern Architects; Noushin Ehsan, AIA — Chair, Global Dialogues Committee
Organizers: AIANY Global Dialogues Committee; support by Consulate General of Japan in New York; JETRO; Japan Society; Japan Institute of Architects
Sponsors: Japan by Design; TOTO USA; Hilton, New York
In the wake of devastating natural disasters, what strategies can we employ to prepare ourselves for future incidents? Japanese and American architects and structural engineers posed variations on this query during a symposium focused on the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Paul Katz, FAIA, HKIA, managing principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, remarked that the Tohoku earthquake might be the most visually well-documented natural disaster in history. However, as Toru Hasegawa, adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University GSAPP, iterated that imagery does not tell the entire story. At a magnitude of 9.0, the earthquake is tied for the fourth largest documented seismic event since 1900. Surprisingly, the tremors themselves did very little damage. Indeed, Mutsuro Sasaki, JIA, founder of Sasaki Structural Consultants, mentioned that the Sendai Mediatheque, which he had engineered in collaboration with Toyo Ito, Hon. FAIA, suffered no structural damage following five minutes of shaking.
Instead, the earthquake triggered the tsunami that inundated Eastern Japan, reaching as far as 10 kilometers (six miles) inland, and flooding 470 square kilometers (more than 181 square miles) of terrain. Of the more than 15,000 dead, approximately 92% perished by drowning. Although Japan had dramatically upgraded its seismic design codes in response to the 1995 Kobe earthquake, it was unprepared for walls of water reaching from 3.2-38.9 meters (10-127 feet) in height. According to Takenaka Corporation General Manager Joji Kurumado, AIJ, most of the breached sea barriers were no more than 10 meters (33 feet) high.
Japanese planners are perplexed as to which policy to employ to prevent future harm. Most of the panelists agreed that isolated applications of solutions, including raising the height of tsunami walls or placing a moratorium on building within a defined distance from the coastline, would prove ineffective.
Rafael Viñoly, FAIA, JIA, SCA, Int. FRIBA, of Rafael Viñoly Architects, suggested that Japan consider implementing a comprehensive and holistic land-use plan along the coastline. Architectural, environmental, infrastructural, and recreational concerns could all be integrated into one scheme. In this case, disaster design could become a societal concern, and all of Japan could participate in the discussion to protect its future.
Matt Shoor, LEED AP, is a freelance designer, educator, and writer living in Manhattan. He is currently teaching sustainable design to Bronx high school students, and recently completed his architectural license exams.