Out with the old and in with the new seems to be the slogan of progress worldwide, but in this age of the generic and boring square building rebuilds, there is a greater appeal in reusing old structures in new ways.
The Deshio Warehouses in Hiroshima are a perfect example of structures full of unique appeal in need of a creative, sustainable plan forward to save them from the wrecking ball.
There is a group led by Hibakusha survivor Iwao Nakanishi who worked at the warehouses when he was 15 as a mobilized student. He credits the strength of the building with saving his life on August 6th as he stood in its shadow when Hiroshima was attacked with an Atomic bomb. He saw thousands of people come to the buildings for shelter after the blast and whenever he visits, he lays flowers at the entrance to appease the souls of those who died there.
The Hiroshima government has plans to destroy the buildings in the name of progress and safety, wanting to replace the beautiful red brick structures with carparks and new buildings. Thankfully, the destruction plans have been put on hold since the end of January 2020. The argument to pull them down is that the structures are not safe if there is a strong earthquake higher than level 6 and each building would require billions of yen in investment to make it safe to use. It would be a huge waste of resources and potential for destination appeal, however, to pull them down.
In terms of sustainability, there are many interesting ideas for how the buildings could be reused to benefit society and the economy while having less impact on the environment than destroying and rebuilding anew. A look at other remodeled buildings in Hiroshima such as the U2 warehouse in Onomichi can give an idea of how creativity in redesign can add new, unique appeal from a remodel project as opposed to a new building.
Similar red-brick warehouses have been remodeled into shopping and eating destinations offering unique appeal to the Yokohama harbor area. These Aka-Renga Soko buildings took years and significant investment to rebuild but attracted more than 60 million customers and visitors to the facility by 2013 when it celebrated its 100th anniversary.
There is so much potential for the Deshio Warehouses in Hiroshima to be remodeled and reused with similar success as the examples above. By preserving these significant and unique buildings, it helps add destination appeal while preserving Hiroshima’s heritage. The reuse of traditional buildings benefits both locals and visitors while creating new revenue streams to strengthen the economy.
If you are in the Hiroshima area, make sure to visit the buildings and join an event with the campaigners working hard to save them to hear interesting stories from the site.