Yasushi Takeuchi; Motomu Uno, Shuji Funo, collaborators

Miyagi Prefecture, Japan

Yasushi Takeuchi, a professor of architecture at Miyagi University in Sendai, was at school when the earthquake hit. In an instant, electricity and cell phones died. Two hours later, the land lines went. With nowhere to go, some 40 students flocked to the campus, blankets and food in hand. For two days they hunkered down in its generator-powered buildings. During that time, the plight of one budding architect’s family prompted the teacher to take action.

His protégé’s father, an oyster fisherman, lost everything—dwelling, boats, workplace—when the tsunami washed away his coastal hometown of Shizugawa. “I asked him what he needed,” recalls Takeuchi. When the student replied—a communal space where his father and 13 fellow fishmongers could revive their business—Takeuchi began to solicit money, materials, and manpower from colleagues.

“Ninety percent of the local population survived, but they ran in different directions and had no place to meet,” explains architect Motomu Uno, a professor at Tokyo University of Science and—along with Shuji Funo, vice president of the Architectural Institute of Japan—a Takeuchi collaborator. Within two weeks, Takeuchi and his pro bono client were ready to build a banya, or “meeting hall,” for the Shizugawa fishermen.

Together with his students, Takeuchi devised a construction system made of precut wood elements that could be assembled by unskilled labor. Held together with mortise-and-tenon joints, the components were donated by Nakajima Komuten, a timber construction company based in Gifu Prefecture.

It took the team three and a half days to realize the 538-square-foot building. A wood-frame structure with a plywood roof and walls, the Shizugawa Banya is not meant for long-term use. But even a modest effort built in consultation with its users is an important first step.

The group has since engaged team Takeuchi to build a permanent factory nearby, and the oyster dealers’ association asked for two more banyas in Higashimatsushima and Kessenuma.

ARCHITECT: Yasushi Takeuchi; Motomu Uno, Shuji Funo, collaborators.

BUDGET: N/A.

CONTEXT: Located off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture in Shizugawa, a town famous for its oysters, the banya is a gathering place for a group of local fishermen and fishmongers. Designed by Professor Yasushi Takeuchi with his students and collaborating colleagues, the wooden structure was built entirely with donated materials and volunteer labor.

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