When recent earthquakes rocked southern Japan, the city of Nomi, around 200 miles west of Tokyo, didn't feel the tremors. But earthquakes are so common in Japan—more than 800 smaller quakes have been recorded in the last year—that it's only a matter of time before something bigger hits Nomi. One building there has prepared by wrapping itself in noodle-like carbon fiber rods.
The building—an office and lab for a textile manufacturer—needed to be stronger in the case of a quake. Rather than tearing the old building down and building something new from scratch, the company decided to pioneer a new type of reinforcement, with a new carbon material designed in collaboration with architect Kengo Kuma.
The carbon rods are stronger, lighter, and more flexible than metal, so if the building shakes, the rods can hold it in place. They're also interesting to look at, while not completely blocking the view. "It's not visually obvious," Kuma says in a video. "Using this material makes for transparent quake resistance. It's also ideal for securing a freedom of space and light while being anti-seismic."
The textile company started developing the technology six years ago, but it was only recently that the rods—which have a carbon fiber in the middle, synthetic fiber around the outside, and a coating of thermoplastic resin—were ready for use.
Through digital modeling, the architecture and engineering teams figured out how to place the rods to hold the building together. Inside, a criss-crossing knit of rods strengthens windows and walls. Outside, rods attached to the roof help prevent horizontal shaking.
"It's something that we dreamed of, but were unable to accomplish until now," says Kuma.
All Images: Takumi Ota