Sunday, March 13, 2011

Architecture for Humanity helps in Japan

Just a tiny corner of a crushing problem: American and Japanese idealist architects are already getting to work lining up housing and architectural help to house earthquake survivors in an effort partly organized at the SXSW tech/arts festival. The Architecture for Humanity Twitter feed says they already have $75,000 raised, and ways to help practically are starting to fall into place. Kana Kondo of the group's Osaka Chapter has an English-language Twitter feed here on further progress.

A great immediate effort of theirs: organizing a translation and information effort for foreign nationals in Japan and promoting use of the hash tag #honyaquake for the same purpose.

By the way, I realize Hurricane Katrina was below this week's level of godawfulness, but a lesson from the housing end of Katrina might apply: when big government or NGO entities are fixated on large-scale military-style responses, you cannot trust them to connect individual displaced people with individual available housing units -- that is, except in institutional camps or the equivalent of FEMA trailers. When it comes to offers of spare rooms or even empty apartment buildings, FEMA and Godot are pretty much the same guy. As we probably are all getting to know, networks are what function in a crisis. Craigslist did valiant work after Katrina, as did hurricanehousing.net, a project led by local Louisiana realtors with federal help that was absorbed belatedly into the federal response. Hope there's something like that forming now.

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