Extracts from the Miyagi Network News XI

Inspection of old structures

Published on 27 April 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials/Toshihiro Sato

Type:  Blog/Situation report Vol 111

The East Japan Earthquake, starting inspections of damaged old structures.

It’s nice to see you showing interest in the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. I am Toshihiro Sato who works as a 1st Class Qualified Architect and an activist, living in Fukushima Prefecture. On April 11th, the Chief Director of the Miyagi Network; Arata Hirakawa required me to investigate the present condition of the historical and traditional structures damaged by the East Japan Earthquake. The architect and other people who work for building affairs, whom I mobilised from all over Japan will engage in the researching activity in devastated area based on the same request.

Standing on Arata Hirakawa’s request, I had called Mr. Hiroshi Hashimoto who works repairing old structures from Kanazawa City, Fukui Prefecture, Ms. Aya Nakamura who works as a garden designer from the same city, and Mr. Eisuke Mitsuda who is a specialist of building construction from Kyoto. We carried out the first investigation from the 12th to 14th of April, and made this report.

On April 12th, we researched the damage of the whitewashed warehouse which miraculously remained in the Kadowaki area, Ishinomaki City, and suggested how to repair it. On the 13th, we inspected the Samurai Residences and 15 shops’ white-plastered warehouses with the officers of Murata Town Historical Museum ‘Mitai-Kan’, and consulted about the method of preservation from hereon.

Based on this plan, we made the appeal about the countermeasures for damaged warehouses, and handed it out to the residents of Murata Town’s through the administrative office. On April 14th, we investigated two old residences with the members of the Compiling Room for Iwanuma City History, and carried out the urgent rescue operations on those structures by using temporary materials. After that, on our behalf, Mr. Hashimoto requested the owners of the houses to preserve those damaged warehouses.

Carrying out the temporary repairing.jpg
Carrying out the temporary repairing

The degree of damage to the whitewashed warehouses depends on the combination of various ground conditions, the construction technique around the base structure when it was built, and how many times the preservation operations had been carried out. The points of damage in common are the fallen white-plastered walls and their cracks.

When the wooden construction which was built by assembling various parts, are subject to an earthquake, the force is absorbed by each timber part, because the construction tries to disperse the horizontal pressure. By doing this, the structures maintain their safety. Therefore, although the warehouse which had always been in a bad condition was actually the exception, I consider that there were only a few warehouses whose important frameworks were seriously damaged.

The white-plastered walls were good looking on the surface, however when the owner looked at the damage, such as collapse or cracks, they felt the warehouse had technically been left unstable by quake although the base structures remained completely safe. It is impossible for the warehouses and main houses whose pillars and beams were made from big zelkova trees to be newly constructed again, therefore we recommend them to be preserved by their houses by using the expected dismantling fee to be used for repair and strengthening against future earthquakes. By the way, each whitewashed warehouse has its own peculiarity, so they need an accordingly unique preservative operation, so I will keep investigating and creating the new preservation methods for the traditional structures by taking in the modern methods.

In Murata Town, cooperating with the administrative institutions, we will require the specialists for architectural affairs from all over Japan to regularly assemble to the devastated area. We decided to keep considering together how to preserve those traditional structures from now on, by interviewing about and gathering information on the various issues surrounding the whitewashed warehouses when quakes occur. We are trying to find solutions to the problems facing historical and traditional structures by talking with each other. We appreciate your continuous support and cooperation.

Upon the disaster of the quake and the Tsunami, the historical materials such as old archives along with traditional structures which formulated the Japanese traditional landscape are facing the danger of being rapidly destroyed and scrapped. Facing this situation, we, the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials have decided to engage in the preservation activities of those traditional structures by appealing to the specialists of architectures as much as we can.

This news was contributed by Mr. Toshihiro Sato, the representative of the TAF design office, whom we had requested to work as a leader who would organise the people concerned with architecture. (This part was written by Daisuke Sato, as secretariat officer.)

NB: The photos are all from the homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

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