Yamada-machi is a town located on the central coastline of Iwate prefecture in the north of Japan.
After a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the town on 11 March 2011, a foundation called Orandajima Foundation was established which offered to design and build a facility where children would have a place to play, heal and come together. Following extensive consultations with the local authorities, it was proposed in February 2012 to establish an after-school house and community centre.
The Foundation is named after the island where in 1643 a Dutch ship, called The ‘Breskens’ landed in the Bay of Yamada. This island was called 'Oranda-jima ('Holland Island') 350 years after the ‘Breskens’ stranded there.
The program asked for a flexible building of approximately 200 square meters to accommodate about 60 children. The children will use the space from 3 p.m. until early evening when their parents picks them up. Before that and during the weekends the space can be used as a community centre. The building follows the programmatic requirements which are placed in a linear way. However, instead of designing a long rectangular building we decided to twist the building into itself; thus, creating a space that feels safe and enclosing. From the onset of the project we wanted make sure that we would use local labor. We decided on a “daiku,” or Japanese carpenter as the main contractor. All of the people who worked on the site are from Yamada-machi.
Located on a hill, safe from future tsunami’s, the wooden building stands as a simple, silent structure. We have designed building from the inside out aiming for an immersive experience by the young users. Through the use of contrast in scale, a variety in textural materials and other subtle detailing we believe that there is a certain depth in the space that goes beyond the visual.
Great care has been given in the way natural light enters the interior spaces. The house is positioned in such a way that daylight during the winter months will fall deep into the building, while during the summer months an overhang will provide shade. A large matte-white polycarbonate wall is placed in front of the corridor leading to the reading room and toilets. Seen from the main room this translucent wall casts the shadows of the children passing behind it.
On the west side of the house we have placed another polycarbonate window. Behind this window are trees and the setting sun will cast play-full shadows of these trees on this translucent panel, not unlike a Japanese rice paper screen. Through this window, during certain periods of the year, the light of dusk will bathe the main room in hazy orange for a short period of time. The hope is that this harnessing of light will stir a contextual sensitivity within the users.