Build Back Better Tohoku

by Architecture for Humanity
Mar 8, 2012

Build Back Better Tohoku - One Year Later

On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake struck the Tohoku region of Japan, resulting in a tsunami that ravaged 550 kilometers (340 miles) of Pacific coastline. Any country would have been devastated by such a disaster – Japan was better prepared than most. However, it is in the event of disaster that communities need assistance in rebuilding. Since Day One, Architecture for Humanity has been working with local partners such as ArchiAid and AfH Tokyo Chapter, communities and local design and construction professionals to build back better Tohoku.

We're focusing on three branches of community reconstruction: economic development; access to sport; and support for elderly and young people in need. We are helping local shops and small businesses recover, reopen, create jobs and collectively provide a financial future for affected communities. We call these sorts of interventions "Urban Acupuncture." Localized improvements affect the health of a community much like each acupuncture needle influences the overall health of a body.

As the first year response, we started our program by listening. We enlisted design fellows from Tohoku to ask the locals directly what they needed. By listening to them and reacting swiftly to their needs, we built trusting relationships with communities. This was a very important step for us as a foreign NPO (Non-Profit Organization) before discussion of rebuilding could begin. Programs such as Honyaquake and Road Home were our responses to immediate needs.

We have completed five projects in the first nine months after the disaster, and currently several more are in design or under development for the second year of reconstruction. The following is the list of reconstruction projects that we have been working on. There were many bumps on our way, from typical bureaucratic issues to post-disaster stress within some communities, but our goal has always been the same: to rebuild sustainable communities and economies in Tohoku.

Although this was an earthquake of unprecedented magnitude, it was certainly not the first time Tohoku suffered from a tsunami. Their resiliency will certainly help the reconstruction of the region. Architecture for Humanity is honored to be able to support such an endeavor, and would like to continue working alongside the community every step of the way.

Completed Projects

Hikado Marketplace

Ohya Green Sports Park

Shizugawa Judo Juku

Paper Crane Sculpture

Akahama Covered Alley – Phase One

Current Projects

Shizugawa Fishermen's Workplace "Banya"

Deck at Kashiwagi Daycare Center

Oshika House - Women's Cooperative

Akahama Covered Alley – Phase Two


Architecture for Humanity: Tokyo Chapter

What's Next

In 2012, the Japan Team continues to work with local communities to support their economic and social recovery.

People are still clearing rubble in some places. The extensive damage caused by the tsunami still prevents the national government from funding various projects. It is also affecting prefectural and town governments trying to assist to their residents in need. Architecturefor Humanity has been finding ways to work around these difficulties.

The Japan Team identified several smaller communities to collaborate with. For months after the disaster, thousands of volunteer workers and skilled laborers and tons of food and supplies from NPOs and governmental agencies poured into Tohoku. However, most aid stayed in major cities and towns. Small villages were not prioritized because many are too remote, connected only by long, winding roads along the jagged coastline. These are the areas we have reached out to assist the rebuilding of lives and communities.

The following are potential projects in such areas. With your help, it is possible for us to continue working for these people who lost a lot of things but keep their heads up toward their future. Thank you.

For the full Report, see Build Back Better Tohoku - One Year Later



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Organization Information

Architecture for Humanity

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Architecture for Humanity
Project Leader:
Hiromi Tabei
San Francisco, CA United States

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