roof over the shrine


Reorganising the workshop after the closure of Kawanishi Town Hall became our agenda in autumn 2005, when Koshirakura as a village expressed its wish to continue the workshop. The most obvious possibility was to approach the city government for funding. But we all agreed that however we organised the programme, it should continue to reinforce the combination of independence, openness and informality already inherent in the community. The idea of starting the new phase of the workshop by asking for greater government support didn’t generate much excitement.

2006 was planned as a pilot year to test the new agenda and means of organisation. Funding came from a maintenance budget secured just before the closure of the Town Hall, supplemented by some savings from the previous year.There was an increased flow of vegetables, sake/beer and rice balls from the village houses to the school.

Our new programme addresses how to make the best use of a few houses and lots that lie abandoned for various reasons. The first phase will involve designing events and activities that rearrange these spaces, opening them up for communal use as small playgrounds– transitional slack spaces. Phase 2 calls for the construction of a new low-maintenance structure that will serve as a communal room (or house for visiting guests) run by the community.

Our chosen site contains an old house that has lain untouched since the earthquake reduced it to a heap of wood, straw and mud. It belongs to someone from outside the village who bought it as a weekend home a couple of years ago (but never managed to visit). As it took us a while to track down the owner, the programme was not ready to launch this summer. So we decided instead to contribute something practical to the most respected and used place in the village, the shrine.

The idea of a retracting roof over the shrine evolved as a response to the weather the previous year. Climate change has led to more unpredictable storms. A downpour on the eve of the 2005 festival meant that all the planned events had to be cancelled at the last minute. There was no film premiere, no dancing, no fireworks display. All the lantern decorations we had prepared were washed away.

Bamboo, rope and timber salvaged from the Slow Window and Star-Gazing Platform were used to make the main structure of the new roof and the retracting mechanisms (pulleys). Blue (the cheapest) and white (the most expensive) tarpaulin sheets were tailored into a striped pattern then stitched together and riveted.The edges were reinforced by the insertion of 6 mm-diameter plastic sticks commonly used as supports for vegetable-growing tunnels.Three canopies were hung from three trees to form big umbrellas. Integrated under the roof was another structure that extended the facilities of the Cinema Screen (made in 2004) by providing a pivoting bench seat and support for the projector. The structures are designed to be used once a year. On the eve of the 2006 festival there was no rain.