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A New Anti-Tsunami Archipelago for Japan
Tōhoku Sky Village

Instead of protecting Japan's coastal cities from tsunamis with massive seawalls, a strategy hardly foolproof as evidenced by the spectacular failure of the country's flood barriers during last year's disaster, why not concentrate all that concrete into tower blocks and resettle everyone on top? Instead of moving to higher grounds, you create higher grounds on the low-lying plains where people are too entrenched to consider a mass exodus.

That at least seems to be the idea behind a proposal by Tokyo-based Sako Architects for “elevated land-based islands” on the tsunami-ravaged areas of north-east Japan.

Most islands will be used for residential purposes, with between 100 and 500 houses and apartments. Fuel stations, waste disposal and storage facilities, and car parks are on lower floors. Commercial islands, meanwhile, will house factories and processing facilities for industries such as fisheries and agriculture. As well as lifting residents high above the destructive power of the waves, the design comes with a number of safety features. A reinforced gate at the back of each island automatically closes after a tsunami warning, while steps up the sides let people climb to safety.

Clusters of these islands could thus form towns and cities.

Tōhoku Sky Village

Tōhoku Sky Village

Of course, one wonders what would happen if an even more devastating tsunami comes along and overtops these islands? Would people finally abandon the coast?

Tōhoku Sky Village

While I normally advocate retreat and throw things at the wall whenever I hear the Army Corps of Engineers and entitled beach resort communities funneling billions of tax dollars into coastal fortifications, I am somewhat beguiled here by the image of these islands growing taller and bulkier every time a tsunami comes along, swelling much higher than the previous one due to accelerated sea level rise, and wipe everything in sight. From their original 3-story heights, they accrete each fresh batch of debris into gigantic stalagmites.

Extending this a bit further, perhaps we could imagine these islands growing still higher, tsunami or no tsunami. People will keep adding more and more elevations, not even stopping when they're safe from the reach of freak megatsunamis. Each new stratum will compel them to lay down a new layer. It's a kind of geo-pathology, incubated over all those decades of disaster-proofing their archipelagos. The islanders won't be able to resist such terraforming compulsion, and in only a few more decades, the coastal landscape of Japan will approximate the karst landscape of Guangxi.

Karst Towers

Could these be the future feral descendants of Metabolist towers? Modular units of past and future ruins accreting through a perpetual cycle of destruction and reconstruction.

  • Scott Irvine
  • March 27, 2012 at 10:55:00 AM CDT
  • Somewhat intriguing. I've been reading about how a tsunami changes as it approaches land due to the water becoming more shallow. So if there was a tsunami slightly higher than the elevation it would act as further shortening the wavelength and maybe its destruction. Maybe. And how vast would this landscape need to be?

  • Sir.Charles Anthony
  • January 23, 2013 at 5:26:00 AM CST
  • Building huge walls is being agressive towards Nature. We should try to work with Nature.
    In Chile, there is a different approach to the same problem (not sure if the same type of waves).
    Check here, Elemental's proposal for Concepcion.

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