A Design Process that Created 150 Volunteers

Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture: Tokoname City Hospital

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Tokoname City Hospital realized its dream of relocating to a new building in April 2015. Design Manager Yasuhiro Arakawa wept at the ceremony marking the building’s completion. It was the first time in his nearly 30 year career that this had happened. Before him a chorus of volunteer employees was singing Kaze ga Fuiteiru by the band Ikimono-gakari. Sitting there he heard that powerful song convey its message, that of a determination to survive into the future. What moved Mr. Arakawa’s heart? Here Mr. Arakawa reflects on the design process, which was advanced together with local residents in a workshop format.


Like Building One’s Own House

When I first went to the candidate building site, I must have been taken to be connected to the construction project. Maybe it was my suit. The taxi driver suddenly said to me, “I say no thanks to the city taking on more debt.” I was taken aback by his opposition to the construction project. The old hospital was built in 1959. Twice in the past relocation and rebuilding plans were put forward. However, management was operating at about 800 million yen in the red every year, and the level of distrust toward management was deeply rooted among city residents. Both of these were setbacks. In response, Mayor Norihiko Kataoka worked on management reform, inviting Asao Yamada (the former Deputy Mayor) to serve as the specially designated manager for the construction of the new hospital in April 2010. In May 2011 Mr. Yamada sought to reflect the voices of the city residents in the new hospital and set up the “Let’s Build it Together! New Tokoname City Hospital 100 Person Committee.” They noticed that within the 100 Person Committee there were participants close at hand that had been running up against complaints regarding the hospital, were thankful for its existence. as these participants had been running up against complaints regarding the hospital. I understand the mood then began to slowly shift toward rebuilding the hospital. One of the ways this was achieved was by taking the position of how to assure the continued existence of the hospital.
After the public presentation we were selected as the designers in March 2012. Five months later participants of the 100 Person Committee told us they also wanted to be involved in the design process. As a result a workshop was started with a total of nearly 30 people. Participants included some of the local residents that had participated in the committee and hospital staff. The workshop proceeded with us spreading out an A1 size copy of the design proposal on the table, and having the participants give us their opinions. All of the participants were very enthusiastic, as if they were designing their own houses. We designers were very anxious.
For example, hospital corridors tend to be long and dark, and for this it was suggested there should be places to rest and chairs set out so people can chat. Here we moved one of the hospital rooms facing the hallway to another location and made an open, windowed space with chairs. We called this the Day Corner. While the added floor area could possibly lead to added costs, we reexamined the issue to formulate a way to balance the cost within the entirety of the construction costs, and were able to keep it within the budget.

Making a Great Hospital

Opinions that seemed as though they could be reflected in the design were written into the drawings right then and there. When our interpretation matched the vision of the person that gave the opinion, he or she would say, “Yes, yes, just like that.” In engaging in this kind of communication it is possible to understand from the drawings how one’s opinion is to be reflected in concrete terms. I believe that once everyone understood their opinions would be reflected in the project, their hopes and expectations for the workshop gradually increased. I also felt that the desire to build a good hospital increased dramatically.
The venue for the ceremony to commemorate the completion of the building was the entrance hall. The entrance hall is decorated with a tile mural created in part by 2,912 local junior high and high school students and hospital staff members. The mural was designed by a local high school student selected through an open competition. Mr. Yamada was the one who suggested this. As a designer, I was concerned about a high school student’s design being on permanent display in the most visible area of the hospital. I felt I had to accept their passion, and before I knew it they won over my support and I was working to increase the space’s level of completion.
As I was listening to the volunteer staff chorus, I suddenly got choked up. I became emotional at the sight of the staff members there together right before their hospital’s new start. Through the 100 Person Committee and the workshop we were able to spread an awareness of this being “our hospital” among city residents. At present 150 city residents support the operation of the hospital as volunteers.
Advancing a design with the workshop method is honestly quite difficult. However, looking back I clearly recall only pleasant memories. Our efforts made people happy to be involved in the building of the new hospital. I strongly hope to be able to do this again someday.

  • Sohei Kittaka

    Sohei Kittaka

    Design Director
    Architectural Design Department

    Sohei Kittaka came on board Nikken Sekkei in 1989 after earning his Master's Degree in Architectural Engineering from Tohoku University. His vast resume is comprised of nearly 50 public and private sector projects, including the design of a 400-bed hospital, world-class hotels like the Akasaka Prince Hotel, a gymnasium, headquarters office, redevelopment project and a 1,500-seat music hall. He has worked in China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Turkey. Mr. Kittaka is a JIA registered architect.

  • Yasuhiro Arakawa

    Yasuhiro Arakawa

    Construction Administration Group
    Engineering Department

    Joined Nikken Sekkei in 1989. His favored fields are those related to medicine and social welfare. His management work has focused on hospital buildings and includes Iwakura Hospital (2002-2013), Toyota Motors Main Building (2005), Toyohashi Total Sports Park Pool Building (2005), Welpo Health Support Center (2007), Harusaki Health Screening Center (2011), and Tokoname City Hospital (2015).
    As buildings only create value when they are used, he strives to design spaces that allow staff members to work in an active manner and provide peace of mind to patients. He approaches this design work with positivity, a smile, and communication as his motto.

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