2019Attention to the interplay of design and social issues
Yuta Inoue 栃澤 麻利
Director’s Message

Disaster Prevention & Recovery Design


The need for recovery

InoueNow that disasters have become so familiar that anyone, anywhere may be affected at any time, how can society be designed to afford greater peace of mind? Looking more closely at the finer points of award-winning design seemed to yield valuable insight on this future society. One example of this involves traditions and wisdom across Japan that have arisen from local disasters. Surely many solutions exist that can convey this disaster prevention and recovery resourcefulness more clearly to the public through good design. Good design, broadly conceived, is also applicable to rebuilding disaster-stricken communities and social systems. This year, the focused issue theme of "disaster prevention and recovery design" gave me a sense of the tremendous potential of design. The first entry I focused on was the Tette community center in Sukagawa, Fukushima. Here, in the heart of a city affected by the Tohoku disaster, a complex consisting of a library, childcare center, and other facilities was built as a place to bring residents together. The development process followed for Tette would not have unfolded without the disaster; it was the temporary resetting of many things that enabled this integrated redesign.

TochizawaAfter disasters, and especially when public funding is used, restoration or recovery proposals tend to be unacceptable if the new site would improve upon the previous one. However, reviving a shattered society means more than restoring appearances. The kind of recovery needed creates new cities and revitalizes economies with the future in mind. There must be a special kind of future-building we can engage in after society has been reset by disasters, and this is where the power of good design should prevail. Tette sets an excellent example as a future-oriented recovery project, in the scope of the initiative, the application of design principles, the composition of the project team, and all other respects. Even if its original purpose in promoting recovery eventually fades from memory, Tette is such a wonderful project that we can easily imagine it as a community complex that continues to bring people together years from now.

InoueWe can sense the courage in it, despite the discouragement that no doubt also existed when the project was proposed. The budget must have been modest, but impressively, the contributors clearly sought recovery through this project and succeeded.

TochizawaTette also sets a good example in center operations. Most public facilities are managed vertically, which makes it difficult to have a single site that serves roles in multiple fields. In contrast, Tette brings together several different services as a library, childcare support center, employment service center, and museum. Although each has their own specific hours of operation, the areas are loosely connected, instead of having clearly defined boundaries in the building. In this way, the careful design here extends to how operations have been organized, which enables an effective combination of different services.

InoueUnlike the complexes we have seen more often around the country recently that tend to offer different services on different floors, Tette is a rare example where the roles fulfilled are gently interconnected, both architecturally and in what services are available. I found it an excellent example of good design in a broad sense, including project management.

Design that makes preparedness more familiar

InoueMaffs + home fire extinguishers intrigued me from the standpoint of communication design. Probably few people have ever thought that a fire extinguisher would make a great gift for someone. Well-designed emergency goods that we would not hesitate to leave in view or give to people might seem like something that has existed for years, but in fact, this is not the case. It impressed me that there are now Instagrammable fire extinguishers.

TochizawaDisaster strikes suddenly, and emergency goods should be readily available at all times, but in most cases, manufacturers seeking to warn users and ensure performance have rejected beauty and user convenience. These fire extinguishers can be placed in view, thanks to details beyond a simple color change that help them blend into everyday life. In this respect, they vividly demonstrate how effective good design can be. Design of other conventional emergency products or plans should also be reconsidered, especially now that life may be disrupted by more frequent typhoons, flooding, or power outages, even if these events are not as severe as major disasters. It may be fine that these products are full of warnings if we view disasters as rare events, but now, they seem more common. This makes a case for shifting gears to shapes and forms that blend into everyday life, and good design can be effective in this regard. I hope this thinking – that emergency goods can even improve the ambiance of a room – spreads to other such supplies.

InoueIt must have been hard for a long-established manufacturer of emergency goods to alter the tradition of red fire extinguishers. In this sense as well, I welcome their fresh approach of seeking the best solution through emergency supplies that can be kept nearby, which can set a new standard in design for emergency management. Besides reframing preparedness as something more familiar, another key perspective is to make life during emergencies less stressful. What erodes our well-being at these times are details such as inconvenient toilets or a lack of showers. This is why I appreciated Resilience Toilets as a practical, honest initiative.

TochizawaThey are quite groundbreaking. Most flush toilets use five liters of water at a time, but these only use one, and the other four liters can be drawn from a pool, wastewater, or a drainpipe.

InoueChanging the way we look at things can help conserve a lot of water. On a practical level, resources are hard to allocate if we wanted to change the plumbing for this purpose, but this was something anticipated by the developers of Resilience Toilets. The achievement was possible only because of unwavering vision and ambition. This kind of approach must be taken step by step.

TochizawaIt is remarkable how a large corporation took on innovation that overturns preconceptions About simple toilets used in emergencies. We can also appreciate how installing the toilets provided an opportunity to educate users at schools and offices About disaster preparedness. Only when such facilities are in place along with the knowledge of how to use them will they prove effective in emergencies.

Curbing environmental destruction

InoueTaking a similar approach, GreenRise zippers are also groundbreaking. In this case, the manufacturer developed plant-based fasteners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption, but the fact that a global enterprise such as YKK takes ethical product development so seriously also sends a message to society. Controlling global warming-induced extreme weather linked to CO2 emissions is imperative, but it takes an active commitment by corporate management to work toward lower emissions. Everyone's attitude About this matters, but what can truly change the world is when industry leaders adopt a different stance. To help change the course of society, we must be sure to recognize these corporate initiatives.

TochizawaHow can we work toward a world less prone to disasters? This is also a key theme in preparedness. One answer is apparent in this award winner, which shows what sound design can do, as the movement to mitigate disasters continues.

InoueAnother very inspiring example among initiatives of global corporations is One Paper Box, an approach to packaging by the diversified Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi. With packaging that consists of a single sheet of paper, assembled to form both the box and the cushioning for electrics and appliances, the manufacturer joins many others who are moving away from using plastic. Xiaomi seems to have great momentum, and they have pledged to give back to society any net profit over a certain amount. One Paper Box shows what is possible when project leaders can work closely with corporate management.

Envisioning self-sustaining communities – design to create a distributed society

InoueA distributed society is more resilient in disasters because social infrastructure and services are not concentrated in one place. In this sense, one commendable project was Mitosaya Botanical Distillery. Here, a closed medicinal herb park was renovated into a distillery that makes spirits from plants and fruit trees. Besides facilities used in distillery operations, the site also has living quarters. A very limited amount of spirits is produced, most of which is consumed by the community. We can admire the close ties between the producer and consumers in the local economy, which also represents an economically decentralized society.

TochizawaAlthough Mitosaya Botanical Distillery was awarded by our architectural screening unit, it is a laudable achievement not only for architectural design but also for the comprehensive redesign here, which addresses matters of where we live, how we live, and how we work. Running an economy in a small society also provides insight for disaster preparedness. How can society at a smaller scale be self-sufficient without relying on extensive infrastructure? Japan should consider this topic when looking to the future.

InoueThe large, centrally controlled social systems that Japan has built are a disadvantage from the standpoint of their vulnerability in disasters. In contrast, society can become more flexible and resilient through design aimed at smaller, self-sufficient economic zones that are distributed and support each other. Along these lines, Sustainable Architecture in Hot-Humid Regions provides micro-infrastructure ideas, where production and consumption of energy and water are shared among several houses.

TochizawaModern cities are supported by vast infrastructure, but where partial impairment affects the whole system, we have seen that cites are vulnerable to disasters. Unlike this, one award-winning system is self-sufficient in small areas, and because neighboring areas support each other in emergencies, the arrangement is highly resilient. Prime Maison/Grande Maison Egotanomori can be described as a project that is intentionally multigenerational, rather than distributed. As a residential complex, it welcomes new families while also providing a comfortable environment for older residents. We might also point out weaknesses of complexes with only residents of the same generation, and this complex was recognized because the mix of generations that live together can develop mutually beneficial ties. These neighborly ties may be helpful in emergencies, which makes me hope that this kind of community will become more common.

InoueCommunity members look out for each other, and I also appreciate how the grounds are not closed off from the outside world. Little by little, the complex becomes more engaged with the neighborhood, develops ties between generations, and enjoys the adjacent forest, which makes this kind of community better prepared for disasters. Even if one area is damaged, a self-contained society that can recover with help from neighbors will be on its feet again sooner. It seems desirable for future society to aim for self-sufficiency (by providing for their own energy and other infrastructure in small zones) and decentralized social systems with ties to neighboring areas.

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