An Architect's Response to Natural Disasters: Shared Living and Bottom-Up Community Building in Japan

Cathelijne Nuijsink


The neoliberal restructuring of the labour market in the 1990s, together with the promotion of individual responsibility introduced by the Koizumi administration and the 2008 global financial crisis, caused what anthropologist Anne Allison described in her book Precarious Japan (2013) as a liquefying of Japan. Once a close-knit society, by 2011, it had become clear that Japan had changed into a bondless society dominated by a general feeling of enoughness and in which strong ties between people were lost. This transformation triggered a societal shift in which materialistic consumption patterns gave way to new forms of ethical consumption. Architecture, in response, changed into a conscious effort to improve society with more sustainable options of that of shared living, DIY of existing housing, and renovations of deprived areas through participatory processes. Starting from theoretical discussions in Japanese printed media and an archive of personal interviews, this article investigates the new social role adopted by some architects at the start of the twenty-first century. By examining recent housing interventions that show a strong commitment to supporting local communities as a form of bottom-up recovery of Japanese society, I set out to introduce, by this study, a new form of housing practice. This practice relies on recovering places for communities rather than individuals by means of shared living, renovation and the revitalization of towns
and neighbourhoods.

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