In response to the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, I have been moved by the response within the design community. Designers of varied disciplines have shared the gift of their craft to raise awareness and much needed funds to help the survivors of this disaster. When something as immense as this happens, it often leaves one feeling a bit helpless, wondering what to do to make a dent in the vast need. Design is a powerful thing. It has the capability to bring together people of all nations, in a common unspoken language. I am inspired by those taking action, regardless of the scale of the gesture, from a limited edition poster to the design of much needed relief shelter. It reminds me that it is the collective action of each one of us as individuals that makes a difference.
One artist has created this beautiful and haunting depiction of the earthquakes in Japan, leading up to the Tsunami. Watch this Google Earth video which conveys the magnitude and timing of the events from 9 March to 14 March. 1 hour =1 second. You'll notice the "big one" is around 1:17.
There is an important article in the Home section of the New York Times 3.24.11, on the work of Japanese Architect Shigeru Ban. He has been working to improve the lives of those affected by natural and manmade disasters internationally since 1995. Mr. Ban works with nontraditional and cost effective building materials, such as paper tubes to create lightweight yet sound structural solutions. He has begun work in Japan, to improve comfort and privacy for families in evacuation facilities. Looking ahead, he is raising money to build temporary housing in the effected region.
Visit Architecture For Humanity to find out how they are working with a number of local professionals in Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka to provide support and design services to those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami. They are raising funds and laying the groundwork to support local design professionals in the rebuilding of safe, sustainable housing and civic structures.
While searching online, I found many wonderful works of art available for purchase, with all profits being donated to support relief efforts. I have included but a few as an example of what is available. If you would like to look further, take a look here for posters and T's and here for a list of art and retailers supporting the movement.
Of course in addition to individual efforts by designers, important organizations like the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and the The Salvation Army are raising funds and working to help Japan in this time of need. Often our weakest moments offer the inspiration and clarity for great change and innovation. I have no doubt that the work of designers will continue to make improvements for those impacted, as Japan works to rebuild both their lives at a local level and the built environment more broadly.