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Minka: Japanese traditional farmhouses — its legacy, lessons and future
- Azby Brown (Member of SAFECAST and Director of the KIT Future Design Institute in Tokyo)
- Yoshihiro Takishita (Architect and minka restorer)
The Japanese minka — traditional farmhouses — have been celebrated worldwide as vernacular architectural masterpieces. Once ubiquitous and found in incredible variety throughout the Japanese archipelago, they are rapidly disappearing as lifestyles change and rural towns age and depopulate. A minka preservation movement has arisen, however, and an increasing number of forward-thinking individuals have devoted themselves to restoring and reusing these inspirational buildings. The motivations are not simply aesthetic, as the traditional Japanese farmstead was a model of sustainable design, careful use of scarce resources, and superb integration with natural surroundings, all of which are crucial aspects of any successful approach to the challenges we face in the future. This talk will bring together a leading minka restorer and an expert in traditional Japanese buildings and sustainable practices to discuss the unique characteristics of minka and how learning from them can better prepare us for a beautiful and sustainable future.
Member of SAFECAST and Director of the KIT Future Design Institute in Tokyo
Azby Brown is a member of SAFECAST, who concentrates on collating and summarizing research findings concerning health, the environment, and social issues related to the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In this role he has initiated ongoing dialogues and information-sharing with experts such as Dr. Buessler. In his day job, Azby is the director of the KIT Future Design Institute in Tokyo.
SAFECAST (www.safecast.org), is a non-partisan, non-profit, volunteer-based organization created in the days immediately following the events of March 11, 2011. The group has become one of the most prominent and reliable independent sources for radiation data in Japan and abroad, and a leading example of the potential for citizen science to tackle even difficult technical problems. The SAFECAST data-collection system allows GPS-tagged radiation data points to be uploaded into a central database and displayed on an interactive web-based map. All of the group’s hardware ad software is developed by volunteers and is made freely available through open source licenses. The radiation data gathered by SAFECAST volunteers in Japan and abroad currently exceeds 35 million data points, arguably the most extensive public data set of its kind.
Architect and minka restorer
Yoshihiro Takishita has been acclaimed in Japan and abroad as a master of the preservation and reconstruction of traditional Japanese farmhouses and other forms of rural architecture. Born in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture in 1945, he graduated with a law degree from Waseda University in 1967. While still a college student, he learned of a centuries-old farmhouse (minka) near his birthplace that was threatened with destruction by the construction of a local reservoir. Impressed by the dignity of the structure, he arranged to have the house moved to a site in Kamakura, where it was rebuilt as a home for his American foster father. In the same building he established The House of Antiques, where he sells furniture, ceramics, screens and other fine Japanese works of art. After enthusiastic clients praised the reconstructed farmhouse in Kamakura and urged him to build more, he began rebuilding and renovating other traditional farmhouses, transforming them into beautiful inns, restaurants, and private residences.
His work has been acclaimed in Architectural Digest and other design magazines, as well as in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and other international media.