On February 24, 2013, the residents of the fishing village of Maeami-hama, on a secluded inlet on the Pacific coast of Tohoku, gathered to celebrate the opening of its new community house.
The community invited partners KMDW architects (Tokyo) and Architecture for Humanity Japan to join in a feast the fishermen caught that very morning - abalone, octopus, seaweed, rice pastries and refreshments.
The merriment lasted well into the afternoon, accompanied by stories and jokes, tours and inspections of the structure, and a guest appearance from Ultraman. The Maeami community is very happy about this new structure, which replaces a concrete community house that was condemned and demolished after the 2011 tsunami.
The construction system, developed by KMDW and Keio University, utilizes a kit of plywood parts as structural elements. The house shows beautiful details, joinery and cladding, rounding out a useful and warm community space, and tectonic architectural marvel.
Full update at Architecture for humanity
We broke ground (officially) on the morning of November 4th, with the members of the Maeami community, KMDW and AFH attending. Immediately after the ceremony, all of us started clearing the surrounding site to make space for the building material that will be coming in. Trees that had died from the salt water behind were also cut down to make sure they don't fall over the finished building.
Hundreds of plywood boards to arrive soon!
Ground breaking ceremony
Trees are cut and site is cleaned
On a breezy and cold Sunday morning, Staff from KMDW (Architect of Record), local fishermen, and AFH Design fellows, joined the contractors to help prepare and setup the foundation form for the concrete pour.
Local fishermen also helping out
Center section of the existing foundation was excavated and rebars were set in place. The perimeter of the existing foundation was drilled to house the rebars and form was set in place. As with all rebuilding projects at the region, concrete is still difficult to obtain, especially on schedule. When it is delivered, the concrete will be poured, and they will serve as a new foundation to withhold the load.
This community house is going to be built on the existing concrete foundation of a storage building that was washed away by the tsunami, but parts of the foundation need to be rebuilt in order to place the new building on it. Mr. Suzuki from Maeami-hama, the MInami-sanriku carpenters (Mr. Endo and Mr. Kikuchi), demolition professionals, and Toru from AFH began demolition on parts of the foundation. Concurrently, we started marking of the new building so that we can start building as soon as we obtain the building permit.
Meanwhile, the review process of the building permit is taking much longer than usual. The inspection office updated us the schedule, and we'll receive the permit by the 1st of November.
Partial demolition of the existing foundation
We submitted the application for the building permit at a private inspection office based on the information we received from the Ishinomaki Office. The review period is usually 2-3 weeks.
Before constructing a building in Japan, it is typical to have a concrete plinth on the earth as the foundation. We were able to obtain the aid of two carpenters from Minami-sanriku (Mr. Endo, and Mr. Kikuchi) and requested their skills in the construction of the foundation. This project will encourage the community to engage the construction to bring the sense ownership to this community building.
When constructing a building in Japan, the government needs to approve that the building conforms to the Building Standards Act. This is called the building permit (or construction permit) and requires many documents. KMDW prepared and delivered the required documents to Toru Nakaki, the design fellow for this project. Toru went to Ishinomaki City Hall for prior consultation with the documents, and the city official required us to submit additional documentation because this building technique is very unique.
Full-size mock-up at KMDW
Model of the structure
Detail of joints
KMDW sent us the budget and construction schedules.
August 05: Preliminary design, cost estimates, preparation of construction permit
August 13: Construction methods, detail considerations, construction documents, creation of pre-cut element drawings
August 20: Submission of construction permit, sending out orders for pre-cut elements
August 27: Construction of foundation, pre-cut plywood
September 03: Wood construction, framework construction
September 10: Roof construction, Exterior construction (3 weeks)
October 01: Interior construction, installation of doors/windows and hardwares
October 15: Construction of electrical equipment
October 22: Finishing up construction
Staff members at KMDW (The man on the left is one of the principals, Mr. Kobayashi)
We met up to inspect the existing reinforced concrete foundation, which we plan to reuse, during a construction hearing, with Mr. Tsuchii from KMDH and Mr. Suzuki, the client. We also decided on such things as the design of the plans and the height of the roof.
Here are some drawings that KMDH prepared.
Architecture for Humanity is partnering with KMDW (Kobayashi Maki Design Workshop) in Tokyo to construct the community house for people of Maeami-hama using the innovative building technology. One of the principals of KMDW, Hiroto Kobayashi, is also a professor at Keio University. He and his students designed, developed and constructed the award-winning community house in the town of Utazu in Miyagi Prefecture using sheets of salvaged plywood washed away by the tsunami.
Members of KMDW (Mr. Kobayashi is the guy on the left)
Basically the structure is consisted of a horizontal sheet of plywood slid into a slit in vertical sheets of plywood. KMDW is now working on the drawing set to submit for the permit.
Sketch of the joint detail
Detail of study model
The members of the community are very excited to see the project moving forward, and they are even willing to lend some hands during the construction. Mr. Kobayashi thinks the community gains the sense of ownership by actively participating in the project.
After a year of contemplation among the community, Architecture for Humanity and the Maeami Reconstruction Project Team started to map out the possibilities of the way to design and construct the community house on the existing concrete foundation at the entrance of the village.
First, we have to obtain the permission from the city of Ishinomaki to build on the inundated foundation. The building was washed out by the tsunami, but the foundation seems to be intact. However, it is hard to determine if it is safe without a structural testing.
Second, we have to find a designer and builder. Designers/architects and builders in the area are extremely busy. It is hard to find people who are willing to travel to a remote place like Maeami-hama. It takes an hour and a half on a narrow and winding road to get to Maeami-hama from Ishinomaki city by car.
Despite of many obstacles, the community members are willing to take on this challenge because they understand how important to have their community house built for their village. We are seeking every possibility to make this happen. So please make contribution if possible, and stay tuned.
The community center is damaged badly by the tsunami, but it still serves the purpose.
Watch our Design Fellow, Autumn, introduce Maeami village.