Late March, the "We Are One" Market and Youth Center had an exciting visit by guests all the way from Lyon, France. The group, Silk Me Back,arrived to help with Kitakami Furusato Project, lead by Takashi Sugihara, the carpenter for "We Are One".
The origin of Silk Me Back goes back to the 1850's when a silkworm epidemic devastated the silk industry in Europe. It was then that Japanese silk traders came to rescue by delivering boxes of disease-resistant silkworms and silk thread. 160 years later, a tragedy in Japan triggered founder, Isabelle Moulin, to return the favor through the power of silk, and this time with fashion. Her group auctioned 27 kimono-inspired silk gowns in Paris earlier this year to support the Kitakami community, which she came across her personal connections a year and a half ago.
As members involved with the "We Are One" project, Design Fellow Akinobu Yoshikawa and Program Assistant Nobuko Fujioka were interviewed by Silk Me Back about their involvement with the building and their visions for future Kitakami.
Later on, the group visited the construction site of "We Are One" architect, Fumihiko Sasaki's new office in Aikawa, Kitakami, which is expected to finish by the end of April.
It was also memorable to see Sasaki-san being interviewed at the site, where his old office stood prior to the tsunami.
Please see the Silk Me Back website for videos and updates of their work.
23 February 2013, Architecture for Humanity led the charrette with local children at "We Are One" to have them imagine and create the future Kitakami. The Kitakami project was funded by Students Rebuild / Paper Cranes for Japan, and Students Rebuild has blogged about the charrette and many other activities in Kitakami.
The charrette was reported by a local newspaper on 8 March 2013. Yoshihama Elementary School 6th grader, Yuki Chiba, interviewed and shared her experience at the charrette:
"I created a house that I'd like to live in. I also thought about how we should rebuild the town of Kitakami. I saw many projects by other students that could be fun to have, too."
On Jan. 21st, the temporary shop was removed from the site, and the certificate of completion was issued the next day.
The market opened on January 23rd. Because the staff was exhausted from moving all the equipment and store goods days before, the owner decided to open the store quietly with very few members of the community invited. Already, several programs are being scheduled at the new building.
A local group of mothers with young children and babies are planning to hold an afternoon nursery. English conversation class is also scheduled at the multipurpose room for kids to attend after school. And Japan Institute of Architects (JIA Miyagi) have reserved their place at the multipurpose room to station their consultation services.
On behalf of the owner and community, Architecture for Humanity would like to thank all those who supported this project, both financially and in spirit.
As the only freestanding new building in the area, the Kitakami "We Are One" Market and Youth Center stands strong and serves as a local symbol of recovery providing additional strength to the community.
Building North East
Architect and owner inspection was held on a snowing Christmas afternoon. Contractor gave a thorough tour in and around the building, answering to all of the questions the owner had. The contractor was also kind enough to donate the gravel around the building at the last minute, providing a leveled clean frontage to the building perimeter.
The owner was completely delighted with the outcome saying "This building is more than I could ever have imagined. I deeply thank all the workers for their hard work."
Finished Youth Center
Finished Multipurpose Room
The building went through a building inspection upon completion, and will fully pass once the temporary shop is removed from the property (the law prohibits two separate building in one registered site). Currently the temporary shop is closed until the move to the new shop is completed. The owner plans to move all the equipment and goods from the temporary shop by mid January.
As the project nears its scheduled completion date, project site is bustling with workers wrapping up the final touches.
Stainless Steel Galore
In the kitchen, the custom stainless steel ventilation cover was installed, as well as the stainless steel finish on the walls.
Wallpaper being installed
At the multipurpose room, the wallpaper is applied at the walls, and ceiling giving a soft white tone to the room.
The custom made wood doors made by the local millwork company are being delievered to the site waiting to be installed at their specified location.
Detail on the cantilevered beam at the youth center
An owner-architect inspection is scheduled on Christmas day.
With the threat of cold northern winter and large earthquake, the Kitakami "We Are One" project is still sailing without delays. Power to the building is expected to come Christmas Day!
Almost finished building exterior
Since the last update, all the exterior wall panels are installed, and work on interior finish has been the main event.
On the first week of December, Mr. Yoshitaka Michihata of "Artwall" (http://www.artwall.co.jp/) from Tokyo have come all the way to donate his work and paint for this project. The walls are plastered with silicious marl, a diatomaceous earth from ground sea shells and limestone. The material controls the humidity in the Summer, and its fine pores clean the air, reducing the risk of Sick Building Syndrome, an important feature to consider for spaces for children.
Mr. Michihata from Tokyo kindly donated his work and paint
Also the wood cable tray donated by Mr. Sugihara (master carpenter) and GC (Luxs Co.), was installed, and installed so well working with the paint to enhance the quality of the space. Now visitors would not even recognize where the tray is and that a cable is concealed behind.
Beautifully finished wall. Now looking like a fine restaurant space!
Thanks to the hard work and lots of kindhearted donations by many, the space is looking like a top class restaurant that many would envy!
With the final touches, the building should be ready to go Christmas Day!!
Exterior with siding partially installed
Construction is progressing as scheduled, with basic electrical wiring, insulation in the walls, and exterior walls with sidings mostly installed.
Once completed, the exterior finish for this building will see a collage of materials and colors. Youth Center section will be boarded with wood sidings, and will continue towards the south facade, to give a warmer feel to the entrance. The metal sidings covering the general part of the building will have the deep blue color, with light gray on the parts of the south to provide a light feel to the guests approaching the building.
On the second week of December, a painter who is volunteering from Tokyo will come to paint the walls and ceiling in the Market area. This should immediately give a nice atmosphere to the space.
Youth Center with donated stove at the corner
Interior of the Market area with kitchen beyond
Most of the envelope is now enclosed
Thanks to the hard work by the fantastic contractors let by amazing carpenters, the construction for the Kitakami "We Are One" Market and Youth Center continues to progress as scheduled.
Youth Center awaits the floor boards
Windows were delivered and installed, shaping up the building envelope even further, also just in time to shield everyone and the materials from the cold winter breeze.
As winter comes closer, the setting of the sun becomes earlier, now around 4 to 5pm. The construction site needs to be lit in order for everyone to continue to work. The lit building without the exterior sidings glows like a lantern, temporarily serving as a beacon for the area.
The building at dawn becomes a beacon of the area
Mr. Sugihara (chief carpenter for this project doing the woodwork) and his crew of carpenters from Saitama, Kanagawa have arrived, bringing with them the pre-assembled pieces that would become the Youth center of this project.
Mr. Sugihara at work
The youth center is built using a unique method called the "Itakura Method". Once the posts are up, a pre-assembled board is slotted between to form the perimeter of the building. In only a quick few days, the Youth center is took shape.
Youth Center Section built using the "Itakura method"
In the meantime, studs are up, window frames shipped and are in place. The exterior wall finish and color was also reviewed and approved by the owner today.
Owner reviewing the exterial wall panel
On a sunny Monday noon, a soothing breeze delivers autumn to the Kitakami site. October 15th is the day of Jyotoshiki, or roof laying (topping out) ceremony for the Kitakami 'We Are One' Market. A traditional ceremony held across Japan to pray for the further safety of the workers and project construction. Neighboring communities are called to gather here to celebrate and pray for this unique event.
A small shrine for the mountain goddess protecting this land (center) is setup at the north end of the project. Inside are items such as lip stick, hairbrush, and dolls. Food and sake for the goddess is also dedicated at the table. Two arrows with crane (left), and dragon (right), both protector of fire is also set alongside for the safekeeping of this project. Each personnel involved with this project is called to pray, as with most Shinto ceremony, each will do "two bows, two clap, and one bow".
Once the ceremony is completed, it's time for the most exciting event of the day!
Everyone waiting patiently for the ceremony to end is outside with excitement, and is called to gather around the building. Their eyes are like little children during Halloween waiting to get the candies. The carpenters picks up box full of red and white colored (colors used at celebratory events) sweet rice cake and coin wrapped in paper and climbs up the scaffolding. Moments later, rice cakes and coins are thrown in the air for all to take. Only seen in dreams and movies, it's raining sweets and money!! Seeing this, people of all ages lit with further excitement, transforms back to their youthful days and dives to grab their share. In a mere few minutes, everything is picked up and bagged, each showing their catch.
The owner graciously called the local udon restaurant to cater for this event, and udon noodle was served to all.
It was an event to remember. And a great introductory promotion of the project to the community. The owner was delighted with the outcome and very much enjoyed it herself. The construction is progressing towards its mid-point, and with the delivery of the youth center, the building is taking form and moving quickly. Construction is scheduled for completion around Christmas.
Video clip of the event is uploaded on youtube, link below.
Construction meeting #2 was held on September 27th. Although we had a little hick-up with the delivery of the concrete, the first pour is done. Second phase of the pour will be on the 29th. With the final finish coat expected later in construction. We are still right on schedule!!
Looking at the sample received, the color for the roof was selected together from 8 options. And the winner is...Dark blue!! It will most likely look black, but the color selected was aimed to contrast with the wall which is going to be white. One will notice that the color scheme will be quite different from what you see on the model, but due to the budget constrains and other limitations, we took advantage of the compromise for the better result. More uncertainty of the results only means more excitement for the completion!
At this meeting, what is called a framing ceremony, or ???(jyotoushiki) is scheduled to be held on the 15th of October (a good prosperous day) at noon. Local community will be invited to this ceremony where rice cakes and money will be thrown in the air for them to catch. Please look forward to another update on an exciting Japanese construction tradition!
Reinforcing bars and form work are placed in their appropriate position for the foundation pour. As reconstruction of the city and the coastal towns and villages across Tohoku begins, concrete is becoming a hard item to obtain.
Even with reservation made months ahead, we are experiencing a minor delay in the delivery. Waiting for the arrival of that concrete!!
Construction is finally underway! Construction perimeter is set, temporary power is wired, and building corners were marked on site.
On a rainy day (heavy rain caution was in effect), the meeting was held at the temporary market next to the construction site. Several key items were discussed including the schedule and potential issues that may arise during construction. During the meeting, the contractor carefully explained the current site condition and his plans on the concrete pour to the owner (Mrs. Sato). The contractor also took measurements of the large refrigerator and its water tank below.
Weather and the availability of local construction materials permitting, foundation work is scheduled to be completed by the first week of October.
Owner-Contractor agreement was signed by both parties on August 27th at the office of Luxs Co. As preparation for construction is underway (i.e. setting up temporary power), official construction is scheduled to commence on September 4th.
Lowest bidding company visited architects Sendai office on the morning of August 9th with his revised cost estimate. He carefully explained his strategies on each of the items revised, and together, further discussed fine tuning the revision.
As we enter the Bon festival break from the 11th here in Japan, it appears we have reached the maximum on cost cutting without overly compromising the scope, or safety of the construction.
While efforts are undertaking on the value engineering side, preparations for construction is already taking place.
The youth center section of this project is a unique prefabricated system used as community centers in temporary housing complex, where sections of wood panels slots in between the columns to form the walls. This will be delivered from Saitama prefecture.
In Saitama, where we will receive delivery of this pre-assembled youth center is stored waiting for delivery, more than 20 people including kids gathered on a hot and occasionally rainy weekend day, and painted the wood pieces with persimmon tannin ("kakishibu"in Japanese).
This tannin works like a preservative to slow down the wood from deteriorating from the exposure from the elements, and has been traditionally done way back since 18th century (edo period).
The tannin needs to some time to settle into the wood, so it was done before Bon festival break. Now that the preparations are done, next is delivery!
This day was a nice gesture from the kids in Saitama for the kids in Kitakami.
A special facebook page is setup, please see below link for pictures.
Ground breaking ceremony was held on a warm but cloudy (partly raining) morning on July 17th, 2012. Under occasional rain, with children going to school and commuting workers passing by with amused eyes, the ceremony was held.
Shinto Priests from the local Tsuriishi Shrine came to the site to hold the ceremony praying for the safe construction of the market and youth center. The owner, land owner, architect, and three design felllows from AFH attended this Shinto ceremony.
An old lady taking a walk from the nearby temporary housing complex, came to me asking what is going to get built. After explaining the project to her, she said it will nice to see something going up, and looks forward to the completion.
This Shinto ceremony is a custom here in Japan and held regardless of the project type or scale. The first ceremony is this ground breaking ceremony. Fruits, vegetables, fish, and sake is presented to the gods (the items varies a little per location).
The video of the ceremony
The ground breaking ceremony is held in Japan to pray for the safekeeping of the workers and others involved while in construction. Next ceremony will be the framework completion ceremony when all the timber framing is completed. And at the end another one, the building completion ceremony will be held.
Please look forward to more action once actual construction begins (expected after the Bon Holidays)!
On July 2nd, RFQ was posted on the board of Kitakami municipal office. Bid documents will be handed to the qualified bidders from July 10th and bidding will be closed July 20th. The model that was exhibited at the SAU exhibition last week was presented to the town officials. The officials seemed excited about the project and have received positive reactions from others in the room as well.
From June 21st through June 24th, a 4th "SAU exhibition" was held in Sendai Mediatheque, exhibiting works by local architects including architect Fumihiko Sasaki, who is the architect for the Kitakami "We Are One" Market and Youth Center. There, he presented the Kitakami project with updated drawings and the new finished model, and answered questions to interested visitors.
Mr. Sasaki kindly gave Architecture for Humanity a space in the exhibition to present our activities to the public. And on June 24th, he also gave us the opportunity to hold a presentation in front of the large weekend crowd.
Members of the "Network of the Wooden Home Built by Craftsmen" (?????????????http://kino-ie.net/?who keeps the kit for the "children's house" have come as far from Aichi and Yamanashi Prefecture to discuss potential technical issues integrating the kit to the project.
Another design meeting was held between the architect and client on April 30th to finalize the design at the architects Sendai office. In its third revised version, client gave the green light to the design to proceed to the next phase. Drawings will now be drafted for bid. Another meeting is scheduled in two weeks at Kitakami.
Design meeting discussing the revised design made by the architect was held to our client at Kitakami on 4/16. Another design revision was necessary as the temporary pre-fab market on site had been set into the proposed location. Afterwards, we have visited the temporary market and site measurement was also done.Another design review meeting is expected to be held for approval next week.
On 4/6, the architect, client and a city official of Kitakami got together to discuss the project schedule and the scope. After an engaging discussion about the project design, the client requested few changes to the floor plan. The architect will make few revised design options for our next scheduled meeting on 4/16.
A preliminary meeting with Mr. Sasaki of Sasaki Sekkei, the architect for this project was held on march 27th, There, a meeting with the members of We Are One to be held next week was setup, to discuss schedule and project in detail.
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