Architecture for Humanity provided project management and construction administration to build a youth center and a market. This unique facility provides a safe place for children to hang out after school, a place for residents to shop for fresh produce, and a place for mothers to work and watch children.
Naomi Sato is originally from Ishinomaki. Before the earthquake, she worked as an accountant at a local general contractor’s office. Since 2009, she also worked as a member of the Kitakami Redevelopment Committee for the city of Ishinomaki with the city representative, Mr. Konno. She lost her husband to the earthquake, and now lives with their three children. She lost her hope after the quake, but quickly realized she has to move forward with her family. She organized the Kitakami “We Are One” Market planning committee with other mothers in the temporary housing complex. The planning committee consisting of five mothers from the area would like to build a youth center to provide students a safe place to stay after school. The center would be next to a market where mothers can work and watch neighbors’ children at the same time.
Kitakami used to have three elementary schools, but two of them were severely damaged by the tsunami. Students in two of those schools got transferred to the one that survived. Today about 250 students share a building designed for about 100 occupants. Not only classrooms were lost, but also a public library with a computer lab that students used as a meeting place after school. In April 2013, three schools are merged into one elementary school - Kitakami Elementary School.
Before the "We Are One" market opened in January 2013, residents of Kitakami had to drive for 15 minutes to get their grocery. Many elderly people relied on others to drive them. Now the market provides local fresh produce to the temporary housing community nearby. Its location is along the highway connecting two major cities. A high visibility site will attract business from travelers, and ensure its long term financial stability.
Now many children use the youth center as their home after school. Its multi-purpose room is solidly booked for weeks with activities like community meetings and English classes. The owner, Sato-san, told us that this center is the first and only place where children can learn English in Kitakami! They plan to provide more and more classes and events to the community. Kitakami "We Are One" Market and Youth Center is becoming the hub of the community.
"Mini Mini Kitakami" Charrette led by Architecture for Humanity to have children to imagine and create their future of Kitakami. More information on this charrette can be obtained through Students Rebuild Japan Challenge Blog.
Students of Musashino Art University worked diligently with the community for almost 5 months from the concept development to the completion of the construction. Their thorough research and interviews among local people resulted the huge community calendar, which allows residents to get connected with local events and programs. Be sure to check out photos!