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Each Tohoku Sky Village is expected to cost ¥30-35bn ($372-434m). Image courtesy of SAKO Architects.
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Tohoku Sky Village is a conceptual design for a set of artificial islands in the Tohoku region of Japan. The islands are designed as elevated landscape structures in the Pacific Ocean.

They will serve as refuges to the people residing in and around the low-lying areas during emergency situations, such as tsunamis. The project was conceived by Sako Architects, a Beijing and Tokyo-based practice.

A municipality in the region is moving forward with the plans to build the sky village in its locality. When the process is initiated, construction of each village island is expected to take three years and have a life-time of 200 years. Construction and restoration costs will be reduced due to the utilisation of existing infrastructure.

The hilly islands will mitigate the difficulty of people in migrating to safer hilltop areas during natural disasters. The sky village project is expected to be safe and secure for people on the coastal plains.

Villages will be designed with integrated infrastructure to become long-term residences for the refugees if needed. These houses will also protect the people against floods and heavy rains.

The cost of developing one island is estimated to be about ¥30-35bn ($372-434m). Such developments will pave way for improving regional industries and the creation of several jobs.

Tohoku Sky Village conceptual design for impact reduction

"The three-storey high islands on the ground are designed in an oval shape to reduce the impact of the water waves on the structure."

The three-storey high islands on the ground are designed in an oval shape to reduce the impact of the water waves on the structure. They will raise about 20m above the sea level. Each island will have about 90,000 square metres of multipurpose space on different floors. The proposal also includes an indoor marina for protecting local fish species.

Most of the islands will be developed to accommodate as many as 100 to 500 dwelling units. Lower levels of the buildings will provide about 240 car parking spaces. Residential islands will include storage, fuel stations and waste disposal facilities, plus pre-schools, community centres and nursing homes. Industrial factories and agricultural and sea food processing facilities will be developed on commercial islands.

The cluster of islands will be connected to a central island to become towns and villages. The central island will accommodate shopping malls, municipal offices, businesses, schools, gymnasiums, elementary schools, administrative areas, leisure facilities and a general hospital. It will have 334 parking spaces with access to residential islands.

The islands also operate as independent facilities when necessary. The countryside development will include duty free zones, high rise buildings, a 60,000 square metre casino and a hotel to attract tourists.

Purpose of the artificial island project after the Japanese earthquake

The towns and villages of the Tohoku region in the north-east of Japan were completely devastated by the March 2011 earthquake. The catastrophic Great East Japan Earthquake (311 Earthquake) was the most powerful of its kind in Japan and led to mega-tsunamis.

The government plans to relocate the local communities to mountainous regions by developing new model towns. The proposed Tohoku Sky Village will reduce the associated costs and enable fishing communities and farmers to reside near the shore. It will allow the coexistence of the inhabitants with the ocean, closer to the families, farmlands and fishing ports.

Inspiration from international developments and safety aspects

The project is expected to be inspired from similar residential developments in Puycelci, France, and Korcula, Croatia. The distributed settlements will become eco-friendly compact cities.

"The proposed Tohoku Sky Village will enable fishing communities and farmers to reside near the shore."

The high-level, above the ground island structures will lessen the possibility of destruction. They will include several safety features, such as an automated reinforced gate at the rear of the islands which will close during tsunami warnings.

Sides of the islands will have emergency stairs for people to climb upwards. Land masses will be self-sustaining with their own energy from renewable sources, including hydroelectricity, geothermal, solar and wind power, with lithium-ion battery power as back-up. This will make the island independent of the grid.

Structure of Sako Architects’ Tohoku Sky Villages

Tohoku Sky Villages will use debris from the disaster to reduce the construction costs. About 100,000 square metres of rubble, generated during the earthquake, will fill base of nearly eight residential islands to create its elevated landscape.

The round concrete foundation will be piled with steel pillars deep into the bedrock. External structural walls will be built with 50cm thick reinforced concrete. The bottom floors will be divided into compartments for even distribution of stress. They will contain the utility spaces.

Collaborators involved with Japan’s unique sky village conceptual project

Structural Design PLUSONE is the structural engineer, the mechanical and electrical engineer is SOGO Consultants, Quantum Leaps is the city operating system consultant, Accenture Japan is the smart city consultant, ULTRA Technica is the infrastructure consultant, and Futaba Engineering is the quantity surveyor.

Other consultants include DENTSU, Hitachi Consulting and BUN Consulting.