Build Back Better Tohoku

by Architecture for Humanity
Jun 13, 2012

Rebuilding in Tohoku - May 2012

As of May 2012, five projects are currently underway in Tohoku, managed by Architecture for Humanity design fellows.  Each project addresses an "urban acupuncture" approach to reconstruction: precise public or community interventions that create a ripple effect to entire towns and regions. Our Japan team is working directly with communities to first assess their needs and then oversee development of buildings and structures seen as vital for communities with few other accessible design resources.

Otsuchi-cho, Kamihei-gun, Iwate

Designed by Shizuyo Shiba

The first set of four covered stairways was built by the end of December 2012. The stairway was constructed with the traditional Japanese joinery. The quality of work granted them the second phase of the project to complete all covered stairs, connecting all five buildings.

The second phase construction began immediately after the phase one, but, due to the snowy winter weather in Tohoku, the outside construction work has been slowed significantly. The carpenters have been working inside cutting lumber and preparing for the second phase of work. As soon as weather permits, construction will recommence on the remaining stairs.

Start of construction is forecasted to be: End of June 2012. Construction duration forecasted to be: 6 to 8 weeks

• 800 residents of Akahama Temporary Housing Complex in Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture

Shizugawa, Minami-sanriku-cho, Miyagi
Designed by Takaharu Saito

After a long negotiation with the design/build firm, and design workshops with the fishermen we are finally in the construction phase. The pre-fabricated structure will be delivered in late-May, and the construction is scheduled to be completed by June 30, 2012.

• 15 Motohama fishermen
• 100 community members

Beginning of April 2012 – Construction documents, Building permit
Mid-April – Mid-May 2012 Fabrication
Mid-May – End of May 2012 Site work
June1, 2012 – June 25,2012 Container installation
June 30, 2012 – Construction complete

These fishermen are desperately in need of the banya because of the harsh weather. We are monitoring the schedule and the cost closely in order to provide the structure as soon as possible.

Ayukawa-hama, Ishinomaki, Miyagi
Designed by Doogs Design

The community partner called “Tumugiya” and the Women’s Group of Oshika Peninsula Fishing Union in Ayukawa-hama named “Mermamaid” have been facing challenge after challenge.

First, the local government told them that the road in front of the planned construction site might be raised in future. Therefore they have to find the solution so that the building can be easily dismantled and reassembled if they need to relocate.

Their next challenge was that a local carpenter in Oshika Peninsula whom they would like to work with became unavailable for this project. They have to expand their search for a new contractor to Tokyo, because there is a serious shortage of labor throughout Tohoku. Finally they found a builder in Tokyo to take on this project.

• 7 Mermamaid members and their families
• Approximately 1,000 Ayukawahama residents

Mid-March 2012 - Construction Document completed
April 2012 - Final cost estimate and adjustment (if necessary) by the selected contractor, Building permit
May – July 2012 - Construction
Beginning of August 2012 - Construction complete

Hikado Marketplace


The covered wooden deck made of salvaged timber from the tsunami was completed in June 2011. The owner, carpenters and all parties involved making this a reality had a big opening celebration in July. In the beginning of August, people from three neighboring communities had a very successful annual summer festival. Now, people that have moved into nearby temporary housing come and enjoy a bowl of ramen noodles for lunch and a glass of cold beer after work.

• 3 shop owners
• Community members of Motoyoshi (approximated population of the town is 12,000)
• Tourists

$9,100 construction grant


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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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