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Photo © George Hirose

More than a year and a half after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake rocked northeastern Japan, precipitating a 77-foot-high tsunami and a massive meltdown at three of the region’s nuclear reactors, the rebuilding effort is pushing forward. Last night, Japanese-born, Tokyo-based architect Toyo Ito addressed a packed auditorium (with the help of a translator) at New York’s Japan Society, a non-profit cultural organization, filling a room of designers, students and journalists in on reconstruction goings-on in areas hardest hit by the March 11, 2011 quake.

Ito's projecs for Tohoku, the region in Japan hardest hit by the disaster, include a master plan for the coastal city of Kamaishi and a series of temporary single-family residences in the town of Rikuzentakata. The latter garnered acclaim this summer at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale where Ito's curatorial work for the Japanese national pavilion won the festival’s highest honor, the
Golden Lion. Ito's “Home-for-All” series temporary dwellings, is made largely of wood, designed to provide safe, clean living spaces for those in the Tohoku region whose homes and businesses were lost in the disaster.

“The purpose of submitting to the Biennale was to reconsider who ‘architecture’ is for,” Ito explained, gesturing at the screen, which held an image of his work in Kamaishi. This democratization of architecture, Ito argued, is its future: “[The meaning of] architecture is just to create forms in which people gather,” he said, perhaps taking a more modest tack than the sweeping humanitarian scope of his latest series of projects implies.

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Image courtesy Toyo Ito & Associates