Toyo Ito: Message for Tohoku

The following text was originally published in Japanese on March 28 on the ITO School website, and is reproduced here in English with permission of Toyo Ito and ITO School.

Message for those affected by the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami

I would like to express my heartfelt concern and sympathy for everyone confronting the effects of the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami.

This cataclysmic event has occurred just as we in the nonprofit Initiative for Tomorrow’s Opportunities in Architecture are preparing to launch a school that we hope will embody the very name of our organization. Hearing from colleagues at universities in the Tohoku region about conditions following the earthquake and tsunami, we can only dimly imagine the terrible depths of this catastrophe. Even so, we want to be of some kind of assistance – we feel there must be something we can do for those in the affected areas.

The primary reason for establishing our own school of architecture was the desire to reevaluate the question, “Exactly for who and for what purpose do architects make architecture?” We cannot help but feel that this almost unimaginably fundamental issue for those who think about architecture has become completely overlooked by established and aspiring architects alike. Almost to the point of exhaustion, we have called for an architecture that is made for people, and communities. Nor should these be overly abstracted or schematized people and communities, but actual, living and breathing human beings.

However, when we face those whose lives have been disrupted by the current disaster, we cannot approach them as architects and must approach them as individuals. Neither communities of autonomous egos that exist only in concept nor theories of collectivism have any use here. The only concern is how I, as a person, can help you, as a person – one to another. It is for this reason that we hope that even though it is not charity, the thinking behind this architecture school can be of assistance, if only at a small scale.

Upon launching the school’s Architect Development Program course for emerging architects, we plan to first take our students to visit the Tohoku region to hear in person the experiences of the people there, and to also have architects from Tohoku come to Tokyo to speak with us directly, in order to discuss ways that we can be of assistance. During summer holidays we hope to invite primary school children from the affected areas to visit our museum (1) in Imabari on the island of Omishima in the Seto Inland Sea, where they can interact with their local peers and we can exchange ideas about urban communities together. Further, we are considering revising our originally planned curriculum to address issues related to the disaster.

We sincerely hope that even as a small, private organization, our school can provide a foothold for supporting the restoration process.

Toyo Ito
March 28, 2011

Translation by Andrew Maerkle

  1. Provisionally known as Imabari Ito Toyo Architecture Museum. Also established by Initiative for Tomorrow’s Opportunities in Architecture, the museum is scheduled to open in mid-2011.

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