Architecture and Nature

Area affected by tsunami, Yuriage, Sendai, Photo 2013-05-01 (Yutaka)

Architecture and Nature:
Today many of us live in a city environment similar to Hong Kong where we have access to seemingly unlimited supply of food, commodity and energy supported by variety of mega-infrastructure network. Standing inside the cities’ densely populated urban labyrinth, one often feels disconnected from the larger natural landscape that surrounds the city itself and I believe this condition poses difficult questions about assumption of the technological solutions and how architects assume design conditions in the city; Do cities really have sustainable framework and mode of development today? Should cities continue to consume and urbanise the land? Can cities and the way they urbanise the land find more viable and balanced relationship with nature? I often felt in the rural area people have greater respect towards the nature and conduct their living with careful consideration with their natural surroundings; What can city learn from the culture and customs developed in the rural area and the way the people carefully inhabit the land?

Almost three years after The Great East Japan Earthquake, many of the villages and towns affected in the Tohoku region are still in the midst of post-disaster recovery process. This disaster is significantly different in relation to the Kobe earthquake in 1995, which is more close to Osaka, a large metropolitan region in Japan; the early recovery strategy for the Tohoku region published by local government of Iwate and Miyagi Prefecture proposes different approaches responding to three different urban profile of the area. All the strategy emphasises relocation of residential area away from low-land where it is prone to future tsunami attack. In some instance, re-location of entire town and its communities away from the original location is proposed. However past studies of post-disaster recovery indicates that towns are usually rebuilt in the same place and with the same general urban form following all but the most catastrophic of disasters. This is because economic and social networks tend to be more resilient than physical structures; The economic functions of the city will usually continue after the disaster, and residents will usually try to locate their homes so as to maintain their pre-disaster social networks.
Indications from the ongoing rebuilding works in the Tohoku region suggests that there are intrinsic problems with the government’s strategy; the local residents resist relocation of residential areas, and relocations without their support and participation are likely to fail. Re-construction work in the Tohoku region, therefore, firmly put the discussion on the issue of community architecture and town re-development. Also given there are likelihood of re-occurrence of similar naturally devastating disaster in this region, there is urgency here to find a viable relationship with nature; It raises fundamental questions about human’s understanding and attitude towards the nature’s power and how we can learn to co-exist with them.

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“Minna no ie (Home for All)” Sendai, Toyo Ito and Associates Architects, Photo 2013-04030 (Yutaka)

(This text was written as part of proposal for Japan Summer Programme 2014 which was chacelled due to school regulation)