From coastal to urban, the visual landscape that welcomes you in the city of Namie, Fukushima, is one of abandonment, a once thriving agricultural, fisherman village, on one end filled with the cacophony of re-construction activities, and on the other, an urban core devoid of humanity, punctuated by the sounds of birds.
A study that has influenced our field research is the prominent work of American artist Ed Ruscha’s “Every Building on Sunset Strip” (1966). Ruscha documented the exposed surfaces of a living city via a collection of sutured, discrete photographs to depict a continuous architectural facade in Los Angeles (Vinegar and Golec, 2009:109). His method of stitching each photograph into a spatial montage captured a view of the world objectively with the intent of “looking nonjudgmentally at the environment” (Venturi, Brown & Izenour, 1977:3).
With intentions to reimagine Ruscha’s work in the deserted streets of Namie City, we begin our path in the coastal zone. Facing west we see the bustling noise and activity of cranes stationed 10 meters apart, stretched out over a kilometer, swiveling left to right as they create piles of debris awaiting to be carried away. Construction trucks are everywhere, driving inandout carrying tons of contaminated debris.
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Facing east, we witness the construction of a temporary shelter for disaster waste, a sevenfoot high blanket wall covering 30 hectares, soon to be the home of the city’s debris for years to come. Security guards are the only persons on the ground, stationed at various checkpoints, validating visitors coming in.
Moving inland, our transect shifts dramatically from coastal and agricultural expanses to an urban center marked by a plethora of high density, commercial buildings–storefronts, mixeduse buildings, a central train station, schools, auditoriums, parking garages, gas stations, 11 restaurants and residential neighborhoods. All structures, with the exception of a single gasoline stand, have been abandoned since the evacuation call was made on the morning of March 12, 2011.