Created in 1963 by the union of Kokura, Tobata, Yahata, Wakamatsu, and Moji, the city of Kitakyushu is situated on the northern end of the Kyushu Island of Japan. These distinct cities came to be wards of Kitakyushu. It is the country’s leading industrial centre. Each division is known for its own unique industry of iron and steel, chemicals, cement, glass, and cotton textile industries, along with ports for deep-sea fishing, coal shipping, and oil storage facilities. The city’s urbanized area is built chiefly on the reclaimed coastland.
Being a prominent manufacturing centre comes with a price. Industrial wastewater and gases choked the city. At one point, the skies were painted with “seven colours of smoke”, and the Dokai Bay acquired the name “Sea of Death” – so poisonous that marine life was slowly being wiped out.
The struggling and dying city was a serious cause of concern for the citizens and the Government. Businessmen, citizens, and the municipal Government came together to work towards saving the city. In July 2008, the city was selected to be an Eco-Model City, and in December 2011, the Future City – two environmental programs proposed by the Japanese Government.
After this initiative, the Hagishada area of the Yahata ward of the city established several environmental facilities. Already emitting 30% less carbon dioxide as compared to other areas of the city, it is called a “Smart community” and is a prime example of a sustainable, environmentally friendly society.
It is in the middle of this Hagishada area that the “Kitakyushu Environment Museum” by Showa Sekkei sits in all its glory. Established in 2009, it narrates the story of the city’s struggles and its gradual but successful progress toward becoming an environmental capital.
A ray of Hope – Kitakyushu Environment Museum
During the troubles Kitakyushu faced, a focal point of connection was required for an interaction between the local Government, citizens, students, and the industry, to discuss and devise action to save the city. This platform was key to providing a connection to the residents so they could move towards a sustainable and conscious lifestyle. Hence, this Museum is an “Environmental Exchange Point for citizens” for the city’s marvelous journey toward being environmentally sound.
The building is a landmark and stands symbolic of the triumph of the city in reclaiming its clear blue sky and its clean, deep waters. The Museum is built with the latest environmental technology and environment-friendly construction methods. The usage of natural materials such as wood, and recycled materials, drawing up on the city’s 3 R’s strategy (reduce, reuse, and recycle), and employing sunlight as the main source of energy throughout the facility make the architecture highly sustainable and energy efficient.
The total area of the building space is 21,530 square feet, with parking for 300 vehicles provided on-site. The Museum is also a five and a ten-minute walk from the nearest bus and train stations, respectively.
The Environment Museum is a multi-functional complex with an Exhibition Area, Theater space, and Information Library. The Exhibition space is further divided into six zones where visitors learn about the history of the city and how it overcame pollution, the problems faced by the immediate neighbourhood, and also global environmental issues. How the city is moving towards betterment and what methods are being employed to achieve this purpose is a crucial learning experience that children and adults learn from the exhibition facility.
The dome-shaped, semi-circle is structured after the Earth and houses the Theater. Videos and digital media messages are projected onto the dome ceiling portraying valuable lessons for future generations. It is in close proximity to the JR Space World Station and also holds free workshops on recycling every day. The most interesting feature of the museum is the Earth Path which visitors take for a magical ride through the journey from the Earth’s creation to this day. The facility religiously fulfils its three-fold mission of education, information, and environmental awareness. The museum proudly houses the “Play and Learn Environment Lab” designed for a hands-on, interactive experience with educational projects and eco-games that is open and functional throughout the year.
The Museum is built on the core principles of Showa Sekkei accumulated over the fifty years of its establishment. Showa Sekkei not only creates buildings but nurtures them through architecture keeping in view the current and future needs of the area. This is reflected in the Kitakyushu Environment Museum through conscious design and the contribution it has made to the city in dire need of help. It is a social, cultural, and environmental asset that has impacted positively and will continue to do so for future generations. Showa Sekkei oversees the design and construction along with the maintenance operation of the building after completion.
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