Herman Miller Creative Director Steve Frykholm outside the Ishinomaki Lab

Ishinomaki Laboratory was established after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami “for reconstruction of Ishinomaki.” Founded by Keiji Ashizawa and supported by an impressive roster of Japanese and foreign designers, the public space and community center aims to restore and reconstruct the devastated area by giving residents the tools to do so themselves. Numerous design initiatives such as workshops for local students and seminars involving design professionals, help to teach the value of hand-made crafts and, more importantly, how to turn those skills into new careers.

Below is a lineup of a few of the understated and practical designs that have come out of Ishinomaki Laboratory, all of which are available through their online store (However, the site is in Japanese only. If you need help White Rabbit Express can assist with your order.). I continue to be most impressed, not with designers who go to Tohoku, create something amazing and then leave, but with designers who use their own skill set to empower the refugees and enable them to reclaim what was lost.

Skydeck by Torafu Architects (photos by Fuminari Yoshitsugu) | click to enlarge

Made from bare minimum materials, ‘skydeck’ acts as a small counter when you’re out on your balcony. Floating in the air, the ‘skydeck’ stretches a narrow balcony space out past its boundaries, just a little bit further…

Ishinomaki Bench designed by Keiji Ashizawa

The Ishinomaki bench was built with the help of high school students at Ishinomaki Technical High School. Above is a photo by the Nakameguro select shop Output, who purchased one of the benches and is using it as a display.

Keiji Ashizawa‘s Ishinomaki stools were constructed with the help of elementary school students and Herman Miller craftsmen.

Koichi Futatsumata’s “246 Stool” is made from six 2×4s.

adorable “buona pesca” tote bags designed by Aoi Huber and Drill Design.