image courtesy Domus

Japanese designers have created a sensation at the Venice Biennale 2012, taking home the Golden Lion for Best national participation. And they deserve it. Once again their work shows how something completely knew can arise from dust and ashes.

After the Fukushima disaster a collective of architects – Riken Yamamoto, Hiroshi Naito, Kengo Kuma, Kazuyo Sejima and Tokyo Ito, gathered after they noticed a surprising yet understandable trend: natives were not leaving their land in spite of a distressed landscape. Instead of waiting around for the State’s reconstruction policy to take effect, they decided to give these rooted people hope – and a roof to share their hope – for the future.

“Home for all” (Minna no Ie) was inaugurated in October 2011. As this initiative was a success, the architects embarked on a second iteration, in which they appealled to volunteers to send in ideas. The full letter can be found here (PDF) but below is an excerpt:

With this opportunity, we would like to call for architects, architectural students and children in the world to join us in drawing up images of the “Home-for-All”… This is not a competition but there might be a possibility to build some of your ideas. If you are able to submit a work, we would be very grateful to receive it.

The models exhibited in the Japanese pavilion are answers to the this appeal. In this project I am particularly amazed by the human side of the work. Beyond the architect’s collaboration, it is also a collaboration directly with the inhabitants. They are at the core of these temporary homes, expressing their needs, their dreams, their desire. As Toyo Ito said, “architecture as a place to make people gather, a place that everybody can use.”

images courtesy David Basulto, ArchDaily

For further reading, check out this great interview of Toyo Ito on curating the exhibition in Venice.