As reports keep on arriving about the recent earthquake in Italy (another 4.8 aftershock hit the area around 6.28am this morning), let's look at another regeneration project, recently featured at the 15th International Architecture Biennale in Venice. The Inujima Landscape Project by SANAA does not relate to rebuilding an area after a natural disaster, but it's interesting all the same since it focuses on the regeneration of the island of Inujima, in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan.
Known for its thriving stone and copper industries, but now left with an elderly population of just under 50 people, the island features traditional homes and scenic pathways. SANAA's project started in 2008 as an exploration on giving to the island a more versatile future in which nature, design and daily life are combined together to create a new architecture.
The first phase consisted in remodelling or rebuilding several houses that had been lying abandoned for years. Five exhibition pavilions and a rest space were completed, transforming the village into a sort of museum in which art was intertwined with daily life. These early stages of the project were already presented at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010.
The second phase is currently ongoing and consists of three investigations: the first one encourages visitors to linger on the island thanks to abandoned buildings that have been turned into temporary housing, artists' studios and communal kitchens.
The second investigation revolves around education with the architects reimagining the island as a creative platform, hosting art and performance workshops for both residents and temporary inhabitants.
Last, but not least, the third exploration encourages participants to have an active role in forming the village. The freedom of the island encourages indeed locals and visitors to create their own spaces.
The videos in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini at the current Venice Architecture Biennale are accompanied by models of the pavilions on the island: the most striking thing about these structures is that, while they obviously bear the SANAA trademark, they are also integrated in the environment.
In a nutshell, this architectural intervention is modest and subtle, yet striking as the integrity of the place is respected, but the architectural shapes are powerful enough to attract the eye. There's a lesson to be learnt here that may be valid also for architects working on rebuilding a place after a natural catastrophe - it is possible to create sophisticated designs while respecting the natural configuration and environmental needs of a place.
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos