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Tokyo, Japan

The Fireproof housing of Shirahige-Higashi district

Disaster prevention apartment blocks in Sumida Ward are designed to save as many as possible in the face of the inevitable. 

The famous Mukojima district in Sumida Ward is considered extremely vulnerable to seismic activity and fire due to its narrow streets and older wooden building stock. To help prevent a catastrophic fire like those that destroyed Tokyo in the earlier part of the 20th Century, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government redeveloped Shirahige-Higashi district to build a large, open evacuation space along the Sumida River, fronted by enormous fireproof apartment blocks.

18 blocks of apartments were developed fronting a new, impressive park. The combination of apartments and park were designed to support 100,000 evacuees escaping from the nearby neighborhoods if a large scale fire were to occur. These blocks are notable for their size (their scale is in direct opposition to the one- and two-story homes across the street), and their unique fire protection measures.

The buildings are constructed of extra thick reinforced concrete, and each building entrance and window that faces Tsutsumi-dori is equipped with a rolling steel shutter which will close in event of emergency. Larger steel shutters also stand between individual buildings, creating a complete, closed firewall when shut. Buildings are also connected by underground trenches and linked by a central command center.

The easiest way to spot the Shirahige-Higashi firewall is to note the red fire cannons dotting the Tsutsumi-dori facing walls, intended to help quell an inferno across the street.

  • Prof. Norisuke Sakai, Tokyo Institute of Technology
  • Mukojima machizukuri
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