Hiroshima reborn

Monday 03 Aug 2009

On the anniversary week of the atomic bombings WAN take a brief look at how the first hit city has been reborn

In this week, 64 years ago, the world learnt a devastatingly cruel lesson about the human race – we are capable of the most heinous acts. When the United States of America launched the first atomic weapons attack on Hiroshima on Monday August 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki just three days later, the unparalleled destruction and loss of human lives caused by man-made technology were revealed.

After the smoke cleared in Hiroshima, in 1949 the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law was passed and reconstruction efforts began. Now, many years later, it would be hard to tell the woes of the past if it were not for memorial buildings and the occasional ruin left standing as a reminder. In the gulf left by the bombs, productive technologies have been utilised to bear a new city, a city where innovative architecture is finding its place.

Innovation found its feet following the bombing in a haunting symbol of hope. Just feet from the detonation point of the bomb in Hiroshima, the old Industrial Promotion Hall with its distinctive dome remained partially standing. As the bomb was unable to destroy it, the building was kept as a stark reminder of the events that no subsequent construction could have bettered, and in the land surrounding, the Peace Memorial park, including the Peace Memorial Museum and 54 other monuments, buildings and bridges have been built throughout the years to commemorate.

Outside of the Memorial Park, however, the city has evolved for its contemporary inhabitants with places to work, rest and play. With a blank canvas, contemporary became key and Hiroshima became the first Japanese city to boast a Museum of Contemporary Art. Designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa and completed in 1989 the building is located in the Hijiyama Park overlooking the city.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Hiroshima is a hub for the architecture profession, encouraging new generations of architects at universities in the city. An architecture professor from Hiroshima University conducting research on architecture in the‘atomic city’ explained the city’s history can be used as a lesson in architecture. “Through the real histories connected to the lives of the survivors, I'm able to really think about what it means to live and what a place to live means," explains Professor Shoichiro Sendai.

One local architect specializing in living places is Ryuichi Furumoto. His many housing projects deliver a clear modernist signature using clean white concrete and expressive cantilevers in designs adding a continuity that can not harm a city where so much construction is still necessary. But while architects like Furumoto work towards a cohesive landscape, others work towards an expressive city, as illustrated by Makoto Tanijiri’s black Pyramid House. The form is unmissable, a mountainous structure atop a green plinth standing amongst a string of suburban detached homes in defiance of its mute surroundings. Another building abolishing the mundane is Nishi Fire Station. Completed in 2000 the Yamamoto Riken design illustrates a desire to celebrate architecture in all genres by turning a highly functional building into a piece of modern art.

Another example of this enthusiasm achieves awe externally through scale and internally by detailed expression. Motomachi Cred is a 166,000 sq m shopping centre and hotel by NTT Architecture with Nikken Sekkei and Nissoken, sophisticated in its design it is made iconic by its curved atrium ceiling.

This week Hiroshima and Nagasaki both will be remembering the horrific events of 1945 that left two cities leveled to the ground and a generation in ruins. But maybe too, they will be giving thanks for the new cities around them and the wonders that they hold within.

Niki May Young
News Editor

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