Architecture beyond Death

Table of Contents

A fter the Great East Japan Earthquake, Hiroki A zuma est ablished the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Tourization Project, a plan that transforms the nuclear power plant disaster site into a tourist destination, with the aim of imparting its memor y to future generations and making information about the disaster transparent. Follow ing the project’s positive reception, A zuma was inv ited to participate in Japan pavilion’s domestic competition at the Venice Biennale of A rchitecture 2016. Though his proposal did not win, it received recognition for exploring the notion of architecture beyond death. In a recent roundtable, A zuma revisited this topic during a conversation w ith architectural historian Taro Igarashi and art critic Yohei Kurose.
Igarashi recalled seeing many architectural remains in towns like Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, that were affected by the disaster and that he felt needed to be preser ved, only to discover that they had been subsequently removed. A fter the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China, a portion of the affected area was preser ved in its immediate post-earthquake state as part of a government project. However, such an undertaking would be difficult in Japan. Only a few architects, such as Arata Isozaki and Ryuji Fujimura, have proposed large-scale post-earthquake projects, whereas a prevailing sense of impotence, and a belief that the architects’ v isions or conceptions are no longer needed, is proliferating in post-disaster Japan. Here, A zuma obser ved a characteristic particular to Japanese culture, where actual and present interests always over whelm the challenge to impart memories to future generations. According to Igarashi, Japanese architecture’s transient nature can be traced to its wooden architecture tradition; the Japanese people had never acquired the materials and techniques necessar y to build permanent constructions until they were confronted with European civilization just 150 years ago. Kurose obser ved a similar situation in the art realm; the permanent techniques of European oil paintings and sculptures were closely linked to the idea of nationalism in modern Japan. In consequence, many Japanese are still reluctant to undertake the task of creating something beyond death.
Igarashi remarked that Japanese art museums are socially accepted only as temporar y exhibition forums. The Japanese people do not consider that art museums preser ve and manage works that will exist beyond their death. A zuma added that they cannot be sites of “stock ” but are instead sites of “flow” and that Tokyo’s National A rt Center designed by K isho Kurokawa is a representative example.
Japanese society considers the civil engineering and construction industries as extremely important, and its government is now allocating more resources in these spheres for the restoration of the Tohoku regions. You can see this, for example, in the nightmarishly massive conveyor belts that have been installed to build new embankments in R ikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture. Kurose argued that people may find a new way to retain memories in accordance with their sentimental attachment to places. A zuma concluded the conversation by stressing the need for a new invention in Japan: the creation of places that allow the spatial stocking or archiving of objects, people, and spirits, rather than simply flow ing away or mobilizing them through time.