Akinobu Yoshikawa may be [relatively] young (30), but he's seen a lot in his years. Before being shaken from his graduate studio in Sendai last year, Aki had been studying in New York in 2001. He lived in Kobe in 1995 through that earthquake, a big one, that inspired him to become an architect. Aki came through San Francisco for orientation last month, before moving to Tohoku as Architecture for Humanity’s newest Design Fellow, overseeing project construction at the Ohya Green soccer field (signs and wayfinding), and the Kitakami market project. Both projects are supported by donations through Students Rebuild as a result of your astounding crane-folding. As a Design Fellow, Aki will be on the ground to make sure these projects are completed with the highest levels of community -- and youth! -- engagement!
Aki presented at our lunchtime forum his studio's work that led him to Architecture for Humanity. The tsunami uprooted thousands of people who now have to rebuild their lives. Aki's studio stepped in to design a transitional place to live for these families - unfamiliar new houses, streets and neighbors must nevertheless become home for the next several years. As many other housing groups accommodated the need for places to live, the studio focused on a community center.
Aki started by taking us through the Tohoku coastal map. Sendai is just inland. Farther south, the damaged nuclear power station. The nuclear plant is protected by a 20 km radius no-entrance border. The site for his temporary residence is just beyond that boundary.
The site Aki worked with used to be a feral farm - flat and large, the site for nearly 80 homes. A tower ("vertical element") could make a good landmark for the community center, especially somewhere it's easy to get lost. The tower has an organic, twisting shape, making it look unique from every possible angle. That and other sensitive interventions are making the new community a unique and pleasant place to live.
Last, Aki mentioned another earthquake site he visited. This quake was far in the past, forgotten, and Aki talks about finding ways for the Tohoku earthquake, or any other disaster, never be erased from the place that suffered it.
Aki's presentation (captured in the video, below) is, in his own words, "an introduction on an overly dressed mysterious guy from Japan. In this short tutorial about Akinobu Yoshikawa, everything you want to know or care about him including his roots to his most recently completed project, an assembly hall and tower in Minamisoma, Fukushima among others. The learning objective is to like him. No prerequisite is required."