On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan’s eastern Sanriku coast, triggering an enormous tidal wave that left 310,000 people homeless, 23,000 dead or missing, and a cluster of unstable nuclear reactors. Today the debris is largely cleared, roads are open, railways are back in operation, and more than half of the damaged seaports are functioning again. And there is more good news. All of the evacuation centers are closed, thanks to the completion of temporary housing throughout the blighted region.
After the quake, many architects were quick to get involved. Just eight days later Hitoshi Abe launched ArchiAid, a network intended to support a range of reconstruction activities. And early on a group of five Tokyo architects—Hiroshi Naito, Toyo Ito, SANAA’s Kazuyo Sejima, Kengo Kuma, and Riken Yamamoto—formed KISYN-no-kai in an effort to contribute their skills to the rebuilding. But with reconstruction plans moving at a snail’s pace and planning matters delegated to civil engineers (as Japan is wont to do), these groups are turning their attention to small interventions and community-centered activities.