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Designing for Survival: Stories from Tohoku

School of Architecture Autumn lecture series

Grid of 12 black and white images showing details of a building

Thursday, 1 June 2017, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM

Dr Marieluise Jonas
Senior Lecturer, Landscape Architecture, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

In the aftermath of the devastating destruction wrought by the 3/11 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami potential new directions to pursue habitation and settlement have become possible for the Tohoku region. In addition, new specifications for designs yet to be invented have been necessitated, as previous infrastructure-based approaches of securing settlements have failed disastrously.

Now is an opportunity to recalibrate communities, infrastructures and imaginations to a new scale – one that affords humans the time, space, and ability to recognize and to move responsively and in relation to the non-human scale of planetary geo-forces.

How can we ‘build back better’? What fresh ideas are there for new forms of living? How does Tohoku hold ideas for multigenerational, inclusive, decentralized, economically stable and future-oriented environments? What do landscape architects offer in re-conceptualizing safe settlements? What are limits for recovery?

The lecture draws on a wide range of project case studies and applied design research conducted by Dr Jonas over the course of 6 years of project work in the region. The lecture will offer a renewed perspective that draws on site and transformation, and reflects on processes, successes and failures of post-disaster recovery in a highly complex and ongoing process in Tohoku.

Marieluise holds a PhD from Tokyo University where she researched the practice and tradition of informal use of space in dense urban conditions. She is affiliated with the University of Tokyo through urban research and post disaster reconstruction projects in Tohoku. In 2013, 2015 and 2016 the Australia Japan Foundation funded research collaborations with NGOs and University partners in Kesennuma, Japan.

A key interest of Marieluise’s research is the engagement with materiality and a notion of immediacy. In teaching, her approach focuses on on-site experimentation and making where she can draw on a background in landscape construction.

The 2014 book publication Tokyo Void Possibilities in Absence co-authored with Heike Rahmann is a reflection on the ongoing investigation of urban vacant spaces in Tokyo. The research focus on urban vacant spaces has extended from Tokyo to other Asian metropolises, Europe, USA and Australia and has been published in Journals and book chapters.

The enquiry of design research practice in Landscape Architecture is another focus. The 2012 book publication Exposure 00 co-edited with A/Prof. Rosalea Monacella is considering contemporary approaches in Landscape Architecture.


*Refreshments provided.

Image credit: Marieluise Jonas, Hashikami, Nov 2016.


1 June 2017
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm


City - Broadway

UTS DAB, Level 4, Landscape Architecture Studio (CB06.04.05),
702-730 Harris Street, Sydney

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