The massive March 11 earthquake-tsunami that hit northeastern Japan in 2011 wrought unprecedented damage, even setting off a chain of nuclear disaster. Over 100,000 people lost their homes and were forced to take shelter in relief centers and temporary housing. The relief centers offer no privacy, scarcely enough room to stretch out and sleep, while the hastily tacked up temporary housing units are little more than rows of empty shells-grim living conditions either way.
The idea is to make something like a house that is all living room and no bedrooms. A place with sofas and tables where people can go sit and talk, maybe read a book or newspaper over coffee. A reassuring place that offers a bit of normal life. No matter how humble and unassuming, to those who have lost their own home, the "Home-for-All" might just afford a viable hold-on substitute.
Home-For-All isn't a home in the traditional sense. It has a "home-ness" in regard to scale and the division of rooms, but it isn't inhabited. Instead, it functions as an informal meeting point for the community. Ito describes it as "an attempt to provide places where those who've lost their homes in the tsunami can meet and enjoy a little breathing space". The temporary housing erected for those made homeless after the disaster provides little in terms of individuality or even comfort, so the Home-For-All spaces focus on bringing people together, serving as important nodes in a society that has little else in terms of public space. The function becomes that of rebuilding the community spiritually while the restoration of the physical infrastructure is yet to start.
The structure is built from salt-damaged cedar trees that grow in the area. It resembles a watch tower, a final outpost overlooking the vast, flat land that holds the memories of so many people. The building contains a series of interwoven indoor and outdoor spaces that will suit all seasons - heated by a stove in winter and ventilated by open windows letting in the breeze in summer. The architects Toyo Ito, Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto, and Akihisa Hirata are not yet sure what the community will make of it. They have shared their plans and models but are not convinced that they can visualise the final outcome. But it has a new air of optimism. "This was a very happy time for all of us," says Hirata.
This primitive architecture is, as Mr. Ito says, "not the answer to the questions but the starting point towards the new era of architecture".
Venice Architecture Biennale
At the 13th Venice Biennale, the Japanese Pavilion, where the results of the first "Home-for-all" were on display, was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation.
Commissioned by Toyo Ito, this research has been conducted by young architects Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto and Akihisa Hirata.