Climate Change, Innovation and Architects: 2020 Olympics

Beyond Our Best: Creators Uplifting Japan Collective Ideas

Can the 2020 Olympics be an Occasion to Better Protect Japanese Citizens and Tokyo from Climate Change (Water Suge, Typhoons, Rising Water Levels in Asia) and Natural Disasters?

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Idea Stage Proposal

Problem: According to a May 2013 Asian Development bank report on climate change, rising water levels in Asia including Japan will create important problems for farmers and others in the next 40 years calling for the re-enforcement of ports and large adaptation costs. On March 17, 2014 the Japanese Environment Ministry also estimated that in the next 100 years Japan may lose as much as 85% of its beaches and triple the cost of flooding damage.

Tsunamis, typhoons and rising water levels call the Japanese and others in the world to innovate on new structures that can better protect its citizens, farmers and its coast. Climate adaptation cannot wait for a gridlocked climate mitigation agreements that have sustainable development goals for all nations.

Opportunity: In 2020, the same year that the Kyoto protocol has been extended through, the Japanese will host the Olympics in Tokyo Bay area. Can the Japanese use the Olympics as an opportunity to propose and possibly demonstrate new innovative structures to better protect Tokyo Bay and Japanese citizens from future storm surges, typhoons, tsunamis and rising water levels as well as inspire the world to follow or emulate?

Our focus is not the Olympics, but innovation on structures and ideas that can save lives and be used in Japan and elsewhere. We hope to help imagine new ways to stop, slow down or deviate water surge and waves other than the simple rock structures currently used on coastlines of Japan which have proven inadequate and are a blight to the coastal view.

Let us Imagine:

  • How could we stop, slow down, deter or better predict and measure waves or stop rising water levels in a manner that could save lives in Tokyo Bay and elsewhere?
  • Could sensors in a certain pattern resembling 5 Olympic rings in Tokyo Bay be useful for monitoring waves?
  • Could a structure stopping waves in the future be see through or clear and not obstruct the coastal view?
  • Could another wave be created in the opposite direction to alter a tsunami’s course or a typhoon’s force to slow waves down?
  • Could astronomers and NASA imagine with architects « interceptors » to deflect or alter the course of a tsunami ? Could some of the things that are imagined to stop or alter a meteor work on a wave or a surge?
  • Could a better understanding of coral reefs, objects floating on the ocean or forests absorb energy of tsunamis or lessen the force of waves from a typhoon? Could some of these structures (placed in the water) provide energy when waves are not a threat?
  • Could we create golf courses or pastures in low-lying coastal areas (when villages have agreed to move to higher grounds) that are landscaped in a manner that re-directs water away from highly populated areas and provide more time for evacuation?
  • Could Japanese farmland along the coast be landscaped to slow down the force of a tsunami and save lives while encouraging larger plots and competitive crops?

We believe that Japanese artists (architects and others) can work together to elevate, inspire, build and test new structures for Tokyo Bay that better protect Japanese citizens in Tokyo and elsewhere from climate change, all in time for some inaugurations before 2020.

During this process we hope to create more environmentally friendly Olympic games that contribute to the welfare of local citizens far after the games are over.

To do so we must be flexible, we must work with the Olympics and with scientists, governments, farmers and countless others to imagine innovations that can save lives and facilitate recovery. We must realize that some will work and others not. We must begin together now.

Architects and Climate Change, Crisis and Innovation

We appeal to Japanese architects to use their imagination to design new ways to combat environmental threats. We envision an interdisciplinary environment where architects exchange ideas with physicists, mathematicians, engineers and astronomers to think in revolutionary new ways.

We believe that the combination of Japanese architectural ingenuity and ideas from different fields of science would yield ingenious new solutions not only for protecting against tsunamis, but also for addressing rising water levels, earthquakes and other related environmental threats. In the future, we see the type of forum we develop becoming international and some programs even being implemented under the auspices of the United Nations.

If sufficient interest is shown, we will find a way to organize informal gatherings of architects and other interested persons to jumpstart this program.

Please contact us to get involved.  We need to work with the team making decisions for the Olympic Games, with Architects, Farmers, Astronomers, Landscape Engineers, Golf Course Architects and other Scientists. Together.

Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka

Director, Beyond Our Best : Creators Uplifting Japan

 

USEFUL LINKS :

UN and Resilient Design
http://www.resilientdesign.org/resilient-design-on-the-un-agenda-as-it-prepares-for-climate-change/
Asian Development Bank Report in Asia (and Japan) on Climate Change Challenges
http://www.adb.org/publications/cost-adaptation-rising-coastal-water-levels-prc-japan-and-republic-of-korea

The Rockefeller Foundation Grant to Resilient Cities http://100resilientcities.rockefellerfoundation.org/pages/about-the-challenge

Challenge for Architects and Scientists: 

Innovative Japanese Landscape Architects Explore Alternative Solutions to Seawalls  http://issuu.com/thehiddentokyo/docs/shibitachi_project_brief_01

Nuclear Power Plants at Risk from Tsunamis Around the World
http://inhabitat.com/new-study-shows-23-nuclear-power-plants-around-the-world-at-high-risk-from-tsunamis/

Earthquake structures
http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/architecture/earthquake-and-tsunami-resistant-building-tech-5382936

Tsunami Proof House
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2544787/The-house-built-withstand-NATURAL-DISASTERS-Innovative-home-survive-tsunamis-earthquakes-85-mph-gales.html

Kobe Begins Research
http://www.apn-gcr.org/2013/09/10/workshop-on-climate-change-adaptation-disaster-risk-reduction-and-loss-and-damage/

Suggested Studies to Explore

FIELD SURVEY OF THE 2011 TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI IN MIYAGI AND FUKUSHIMA PREFECTURES, TAKAHITO MIKAMI∗, TOMOYA SHIBAYAMA† and MIGUEL ESTEBAN‡

Coastal Engineering Journal, Vol. 54, No. 1 (2012) 1250011 (26 pages)
⃝c World Scientific Publishing Company and Japan Society of Civil Engineers DOI: 10.1142/S0578563412500118

 

 

 

 

Kesennuma Making a Difference from Kid to Kid

Kesennuma, Changing Japan from Kid to Kid and Beyond (a visit on March 13, 2013)

kesennuma-before March 11 Kesennuma, located in the northeast of Miyagi Precture, Japan, was deeply affected  in Japan’s quake disaster.    This leading fishing town in Japan is of great beauty and its people of great strength.  Having said that,  the strong need help and two years after the disaster there is still much that can be done.

Kesennuma Hit Hard by Tsunami

kesennuma after march 11When we compare the images of before and after the disaster, the contrast helps us realize how difficult re-construction can be and how much help is still needed.

When faced with national crisis many of us feel useless.  Our first response is what can I do?   And yet, it is often the smallest acts, many of which seemingly go unnoticed, which make a fundamental difference.

Kesennuma boat chaosFor instance, Emi Satomi and a group of nursery teachers from Kesenumma whose jobs were eliminated by the catastrophe, weren’t sure what to do.  They made a makeshift day care center in a warehouse up on a hill.  Despite Emi’s fear to take on something she felt was beyond her, she forged ahead and named the new nursery Ohisama,  meaning “sun” (more on her by Japan Times).  And sun it brought.

Today, the Japanese have done a great job in cleaning up Kesennuma.  And yet, it is not clean streets alone that are sufficient in raising the human spirit.  It is people like Emi Satomi and small acts which change lives.  Acts that tell people we are with them.

TIS (Tokyo International School) Kids, Parents and Michael Anop’s Play Ground of Hope

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On March 13 2013, a group from TIS (Tokyo International School) of dedicated and inspiring parents — including Bita Alu and Tracey Odea — as well as the head of the school, Des Hurst, and the entrepreneur Michael Anop (founder of the Play Ground of Hope) went up to Kessennuma together with a mission.  The purpose of the visit: to send a message from the kids of TIS (Tokyo International school) to the kids of Ohisama that they are not forgotten.

fullplaygroundIn kids talk, this means it is time to play and to smile.  The kids at TIS saved their money and through their own fundraising as well as of their parents offered a playground of hope to a nursery school in Kesennuma.  The idea was to provide a  smile to kids up north and some relief  to the brave nursery teachers who through their giving and effort helped many families in difficulty.

These kids from TIS (Tokyo International School) are wiser than most of us.  They know that is only when smiles return that real reconstruction begins.  Let me share with you a few of those pictures as the moment was a happy one!

happy kid kesennuma playground of hopedownslidehappyredcap

The boy with the red cap kept hugging us.

I speak about the wisdom of children, but I also speak with some noted exceptions of great adults.  Michael Anop, who is himself a parent and knows well the benefit of outdoor play for kids has started a great project of hope for kids (and their parents) in Tohoku.  As the housing situation is difficult in the north with temporary housing now constructed, but with no room for kids to play — a solution had to be found.

kesennuma playground of hope peaceGiven that local authorities remain busy with the basics of housing and employment, it is private initiatives like the Playground of Hope that make the difference.  Michael, determined to help children and their parents in Tohoku, found a way to make playgrounds affordable.  He did something that even the local Japanese constructors thought impossible: build a sturdy affordable playground designed to last.

As he has worked on project after project in Tohoku, he has merited the confidence and trust of local authorities and even the makers of playgrounds are now approaching him with some admiration.  It is my hope that new playgrounds can be created for children who have no place to play.  For this to continue efforts in financing Playground of Hope are helpful by schools and individuals.

We also need the media in the north to make the project of hope visible so that new communities in need of playgrounds will initiate requests to Michael.

snack2snack1Here the kids are having a snack after playing in the playground.

They are waving to their new friends at TIS.  Bita Alu lugged up a large suitcase of presents for each one of them, to be given after the snack…

 

Financing Socially Aware Projects in Tohoku Creates Smiles

People such as Ronald Choi, a Korean investment banker for JP Morgan in Tokyo and also a parent at TIS, is now working to help finance the Playground of Hope and other projects.   He and others are aware that the real work in re-construction starts now.  That is : it is only after people have struggled to physically survive, that comes the more difficult task of re-building one’s life and creating daily meaning in difficult circumstances.

copy-nadiahpheaderRon Choi is raising additional money for the Playground of Hope and other projects up north with the organization NADIA.

I first met Mr. Choi on a bus on the way to Ishinomaki when TIS donated a large playground and many excited children and parents rode up together with Lorraine Izzard (the new head of TIS as of July 2013).  On the bus, I was struck by Mr. Choi’s great spirit, modesty and generosity.  Here was an investment banker who took his own vacation time (vacation is rare in investment banking) to physically do hard labor to help re-build homes up north.  I only met him for a few moments, but was moved by him and his giving family as well as the way he spoke to his own children and to others.

Helping Communities Now and Japanese Architects

what future KesennumaProjects such as Michael’s are important as they underline the necessity of people up north to re-create links and find a place to see old friends and build relationships.  This naturally happens around children.  Socially aware projects like Michael’s enable communities to unite and re-build from within.

As most housing units up north have been randomly assigned to people in temporary housing, people often do not know each other.   Until (and even after) permanent housing and new relationships are created, playgrounds and places where adults can come together are needed.

Another such notable project that merits attention due to its social awareness is by the reknown architect Toyo Ito.  He has designed a “house for all,” as shown in Keiko Courdy’s web documentary Yonaoshi.   Her stunning documentary talks about a New Japan emerging from the disaster, a Japan better than before.   Perhaps, when we look at this house, we begin to understand the spirit of this new Japan.

Toyo ItoIn the video interview of Toyo Ito, Keiko Courdy shows a  prototype of a house by Ito that builds on a new spirit of community.  The wooden house has a place to sit outside where people can naturally greet passing neighbors and a place to gather to cook together a simple meal inside or to have tea together.

Other Japanese architects too, like Shigeru Ban, have created new structures for people up north often without help from local governments nor outside funding nor support.   These architects remind us of our responsibility in crisis to think about the people within the houses, about their hearts, minds and desire to be together with loved ones.

The experience of these Japanese architects remind us of the courage necessary to break away from bureaucracy and let a new Japan emerge.  Some Japanese bureaucrats have been courageous to do so and have allowed talented Japanese architects to realize new structures.   However, more needs to be done to help Japanese architects build and innovate according to needs of people who have lost their homes and often all hope.

It could be our role to link Japanese architects, courageous mayors and bureaucrats who are willing to take a chance, bankers like Ronald Choi and daring social entrepreneurs like Michael Anop to help make the daily life of our citizens livable.

Building a New Japan : A Role for Artists

fukushima stationAs we returned home and passed through Fukushima, I looked out of my window and felt like we have only just begun.  That the real work starts now.

boatKesennuma upon our return shows considerable progress in cleaning up the streets.

The well known ship that was left stranded shows a stark contrast to the one in the earlier picture of this blog.  And yet, there was also a feeling of great sadness.  A feeling of isolation that is hard to describe as there was an emptiness about the streets.

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With unemployment in the Tohoku area important,  houses with a new community spirit and playgrounds brought by the private sector can do much to help reduce stress and growing domestic violence, drinking and suicide in Tohoku.

Playgrounds and community houses may seem like little acts of creation, but in the day to day life of stressed out parents who can easily tire, they bring back a moment of peace or even a smile.   That smile was best communicated to us by the children we met at Kesennuma.  When we first met them, they were all hard at work happily building something in the sand around the playground.

Kesennuma

When I asked them what they were building, I had expected a “castle,” or something of the sort, but instead heard “I am building a store, a house, a road and shops.”   And so they were.  I leave you, Japanese architects, bureaucrats and financial investors with their hopes and with the beautiful sunset I saw on the way back passing Fukushima.  I am sure you will not disappoint them.

sunset Fukushima