In the summer of 2012, 25 pre-juniors in the University of Cincinnati's nationally number-one ranked industrial design program, housed within the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), designed five (3-D) inter-generational playgrounds for the northern coastal city of Ishinomaki, Japan, which was devasted by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 2011. The five models were on display in the Robert A. Deshon and Karl J. Schlachter Library for Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning throughout fall semester.
Adrienne Pearson, a native of Detroit, MI, and one of the students who worked on the project, stated, "Often, we are theorizing on a problem that needs solving. This time, the problem was very real. I think we all felt very immediately a sense of empathy and wanted from the heart not just to fulfill a school assignment, but also to help this community."
Project organizers announced earlier this month that "The Matsunami Mountain Design" by students Branden Francis, Brent Radewald, Mark Grote, Mark Hearn, and Matt Baer was chosen as the winning design. The decision falls close to the second anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2011. The winning design can be viewed online.
The idea to build a playground originated from nine-year-old Miya Moore of Lebanon, OH, who was inspired to do something to help the victims of the March 2011 disaster. Miya has relatives living in the Ishinomaki area, and her late grandmother, Sumiko, had lived there. Miya's mother, Emiko Moore, contacted officials in Ishinomaki who expressed interest in rebuilding Matsunami Park, which was completely destroyed in the tsunami. Moore then approached DAAP about the project and worked with industrial design professors Michael Roller and Peter Chamberlain to get the design students involved. Soon, the entire DAAP college was excited about this effort, including the dean of the college, Robert Probst, who expressed his support. Also supporting the project was the Japan American Society of Greater Cincinnati and the Consulate-General of Japan in Detroit.
"This area suffered such tremendous loss of lives and property during the disaster. The recovery will take some time," said Moore. "We want those in Ishinomaki to know they are not forgotten. This playground, which I believe embodies so much heart and compassion from the UC students, is a gift of hope and of friendship."
The Ishinomaki Neighborhood Committee Leaders, city residents, and Urban Planning Department, along with volunteer contacts in the Miyagi Prefecture (of Ishinomaki), all reviewed the playground designs. They looked for a design that would be most functional in the playground space allotted for the project and that would appeal to both children and older adults alike.
It is not yet known when the playground will be built as there are special construction design factors to consider. In addition, project organizers are working to secure a construction company to commit to work on the playground project.
More information on the project, including photos of the semi-bare Matsunami Park, can be found on the project's website.
The original UC press release announcing the project can be read online.