Ishinomaki Laboratory – a studio for recovery from the Japanese tsunami

Ishinomaki Laboratory Facade Ishinomaki Laboratory tables and chairs Ishinomaki Laboratory stool Ishinomaki Laboratory chairs Ishinomaki Laboratory, making furniture with kids Ishinomaki Laboratory, making furniture with Herman Miller team Ishinomaki Laboratory, local women making pouches Ishinomaki Laboratory, local women making pouches Ishinomaki Laboratory, bags

By Aya | Living
Posted May 19, 2013

A large number of people in east Japan, especially residents in the seaside towns who suffered from the tsunami, lost family, friends and homes on March 11th, 2011. After the disaster, great efforts of reconstruction were made by locals and with helping hands from all over the world. One of those efforts resulted in the “Ishinomaki Laboratory”, a project of hope, reconstruction and production established in Ishinomaki city, in Miyagi prefecture, one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami.

The founder of Ishinomaki Laboratory is Keiji Ashizawa, an architect based in Tokyo. After the tsunami, Ashizawa hurried to Ishinomaki because his client was there at the time. While Ashizawa was helping his client to rebuild in the horribly destroyed city of, he realised that it would be necessary for the local community to learn the skill of repairing their damaged shops and houses, or making furniture by themselves. Ashizawa decided to establish a carpentry studio in Ishinomaki city in the hopes that it would help survivors to recover from the disaster and become an opportunity for them to start anew.

The concept of Ishinomaki Laboratory was an “open space for small manufacturing in the borough.” Ashizawa asked some other architects and designers to join, he says

“Because they are good at thinking about living well with their original ideas. It would be helpful for Ishinomaki Laboratory.”

The members of  Ishinomaki Laboratory planned workshops for locals to teach using tools and repairing for recovery. Plus, Ashizawa asked the Ishinomaki High School of Technology to participate and collaborated with students to make wooden benches for use during future events in the community.

Almost two years have passed since then and the members of Ishinomaki Laboratory now contribute and design original products under the “ Ishinomaki Brand” such as chairs, stools, and tables. Supporters from overseas have joined. Herman-Miller, sent a volunteer team to Ishinomaki Laboratory to hold workshops and create furniture with the locals.

In addition to the carpentry lab they have also established a sewing lab where local women are manufacturing pouches and bags. Aoi Huber,  a graphic designer in Switzerland, offered a new design, inspired by fishing port of Ishinomaki, that has been used for bags of Ishinomaki Brand.

By not only making but also selling these products,  locals are creating employment and  profit for locals and the community. The reconstruction efforts in the tsunami zone tend to be temporary, but the contribution of  Ishinomaki Laboratory is continuous and sustainable. Ashizawa agrees,

“Both the support from overseas and the orders of original products such as pouches and bags (except wooden products) from overseas are greatly appreciated! I hope that Ishinomaki Laboratory will set an example as a precedent of reconstruction for another disaster area in future.”

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