Japanese Architects Designed Sky Villages

Japanese Architects Designed Sky Villages

Elevated land-based islands are what one architect is proposing for the Tohoku region of north-east Japan, the area that was devastated by last March's magnitude 9 earthquake and the mega-tsunamis it triggered. As reported The NewScientist, Keiichiro Sako of Sako Architects in Tokyo has created a blueprint in which groups of these islands form entire towns. They are designed to protect people living in low-lying areas from future tsunamis. Tohoku Sky Village is not just an architect's flight of fancy: one municipality in the affected region is making moves towards building one in its locality and others could follow.

Most islands will be used for residential purposes, with between 100 and 500 houses and apartments. Fuel stations, waste disposal and storage facilities, and car parks are on lower floors. Commercial islands, meanwhile, will house factories and processing facilities for industries such as fisheries and agriculture. As well as lifting residents high above the destructive power of the waves, the design comes with a number of safety features. A reinforced gate at the back of each island automatically closes after a tsunami warning, while steps up the sides let people climb to safety.

Power is off-grid, from renewable energy sources including wind and solar, to ensure supply following a disaster. Lithium-ion batteries act as backup. The islands' oval shape is also important. Flat surfaces take the full force of a body of water, but an oval one allows water to flow around.

Each three-storey island would offer 90 thousand square meters of usable space and be bolted deep into the bedrock via vast steel pillars. The exterior walls are made of 50 centimeter-thick reinforced concrete, while utility spaces on the bottom floor are compartmentalized in a radial formation for even stress distribution - rather like the spokes in a bicycle wheel.

At the centre of each cluster of islands would be the administrative area, home to municipal offices, schools, businesses and leisure facilities. The ambitious plan also features the world's first indoor marina to protect the local fishing fleet.

Critics point to the complex issue of how the reconstruction will be funded. Yasuaki Onoda of the Department of Architecture and Building Science at Tohoku University says that while the idea is sound, estimated costs of US$ 250 million per island are prohibitive. To mitigate these costs, Tohoku Sky Village will recycle debris from the disaster for use in some building components. Sako also believes the islands will become a tourist attraction.

Previously, we wrote about another project named "Levitating Home" developed by a Japanese architectural firm Air Danshin Systems which also aimed to protect the public from the earthquake.