Unit 10: An Architecture of Relationships III – Horizons in Transition

Unit brief

This year, we will continue to investigate territories in the Miyagi Prefecture of Japan, one of the regions worst hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Our second site will be located in Swansea/Port Talbot in Wales. The aim is to develop initial strategies for the two locations before developing a detailed proposal for one of them.

It's now over four years since the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohuku region of Japan. Housing has been relocated and the building of new, and often controversial, infrastructure is nearing completion. What is still not much investigated are strategies for the zones that were inundated by the tsunami, the so-called Red Zones, where permanent inhabitation is regarded unsafe. At the time of writing, the Miyagi Region is again in the news, this time due to torrential rain and burst river banks.

Swansea and Port Talbot have a long and rich industrial past, much of which is now redundant, but they also have a long and distinguished history of culture and invention. We will examine current development plans, and look to develop imaginative architectural and urban/landscape strategies for new ways of working and living, based on our observations, interpretations, encounters on site and conversation with local planners, architects and historians.

Through our formal collaboration with Miyagi University, Professor Senhiko Nakata and colleagues, we will continue to learn from some remarkable post-disaster projects and initiatives. This indicates a shift in planning and urban design thinking and a desire to fundamentally rethink sustainable living in this part of Japan.

Our work from 2014 in the City of Higashimatsushima is now part of the permanent collection in the Rias Ark Museum of Art in Kesennuma, Japan. We are currently working on making a drawing exhibition in the City of Higashimatsushima of the proposals made by the Unit 10 Class of 2014 and 2015, to coincide with our next visit in November.

Starting from a concrete situation of urbanity, the unit stresses the use of a combination of research, thinking methodologies, and creative practice to propose strategic interventions that span extremes of scale, from the immediate and personal, to the collective and geographical. A common attitude and investigation into the material manifestation of the environment underpin continuity from the detailed to the large scale. Architecture, Landscape and Urbanism themselves are not seen as a shift in scalar thinking, but as overlapping and inseparable fields occupying the same territory.

Rooted in our individual and unique experience we will again start the year with two linked short projects aimed to develop and fine tune spatial and social observations, explored through drawing, making, mending and repair. We promote notions of ambiguity and imperfections as productive to the design process, looking at how ordinary spaces can hold the extraordinary.

Photograph of an large building next to a road, Nobiru 2013 by Signy Svalastoga.


Course Professional Diploma in Architecture
Tutor Signy Svalastoga
Jonathan Cook
Edward Simpson
Where Central House, 4th Floor Studios
When Monday and Thursday

Professional Diploma in Architecture (RIBA part II)