Japan

Nomcraft Brewing, Aridagawa, Japan

Over the past 5 years we have been working with the small rural town of Aridagawa, Japan to help develop ideas to revitalize the town. Our work began with a series of community engagement workshops and led to the renovation of an old nursery school building into a new commercial and community hub. Over the past couple of years this work has started bearing fruit, with new businesses moving into the renovated school building, and new young people moving to the town. This all came together in July for the first Nom Nom Beer garden event, celebrating all of the new businesses.

One of these businesses, NomCraft Brewing, was a direct result of the community work we did. A couple of Americans heard about the efforts in Aridagawa to revitalize the town and contacted us about moving there to start a NW style craft beer brewery. They partnered with some of the local town residents and local business owners and after a year or so of work, they finally got the brewery up and running!

We returned to Aridagawa in the heat and humidity of early August to check in on the progress and attend the opening event for the Nomcraft Brewery. It was an amazing event and it was an incredible feeling to reconnect with all of our friends there, and see the community gather around this new business and the Living Room project as a new social hub for the town. The slideshow above gives a glimpse into the first event that will now be a monthly occurrence. We encourage everyone to travel to Aridagawa to check it out and taste all the beers!

We Are Back From Japan And Moving Projects Forward

If you’ve been following our work, blog and social media channels, you know that we spent most of October in Japan. It was an exciting trip for us because it was our first time visiting Aridagawa since we finished our community design workshops in 2016. We were anxious to see the results of the community design process and some of the completed work that came out of those workshops.

We’re happy to report that our Japanese friends flourished with the community design process we introduced to them. Here are a few of the results:

  • The construction work has started, with the roof being replaced, seismic upgrades complete, and renovations to the public spaces within the building (bathrooms, etc.) wrapped up.

  • The main design move, cutting a hole through the building to better connect with the shrine to the north has been completed. There is now a wonderful covered outdoor room with stairs and ramps that lead down to the shrine complex. This was an important connection for the community and it was great to see it take shape

  • The community is now looking for small business and entrepreneurs to rent space within the building. The goal is to have each tenant design their individual interior space, bringing a diverse range of local styles to the structure. We learned that the first business will most likely be a top room, serving up local and Portland beers!

We also made new friends in Tokyo, Nanto, Wakayama, and Okayama. In each place, we met with people who are passionate about building community and revitalizing towns. We presented our work and talked about ways we could learn from Japan and share our expertise with the local communities there. What an opportunity to share concerns and passions for community-building, economic prosperity, equity, and multi-generational opportunities.

You can learn more about our international efforts through a number of articles, including:

If you’d like to know more about our community design process or about how Portland design culture contribute to the design culture where you live, give us a call. We’ll be happy to talk about ways we can improve your community together. We’ll also be happy to talk more about our trip back to Japan.

 

Accessory Dwelling Units

Now that we’re back in Portland, we’re catching up on work and moving all the projects in the office forward. Many of these are ADUs at different stages of development. We’ve been following up with the construction progress on 4 ADUs that are currently being built. It’s always fun to see our designs take shape.

We also were excited to get back and participate in the 2017 Build Small Live Large conference. This conference collected some of the leading experts on Accessory Dwelling Units, Tiny Houses, and small scale residential developments in the country.

It was an honor to be a part of the conference, present some of our ADU work, and participate in a round table discussion on the value of design for ADUs.

We’ll share videos from the conference on social media and our blog when they’re available.

If you’re considering an ADU or have any questions about these types of projects, don’t hesitate to reach out. We also have a lot of information and ADU resources on our website here. We love sharing our knowledge and helping people move forward with achieving their goals.


 

Textures of Japan

Propel Studio spent a couple of weeks in Japan in October to check in on our project in Aridagawa, as well as give presentations about our community work and design process. It was a whirlwind tour of the country, and in only two weeks we visited Tokyo, Kanazawa, Nanto, Wakayama, Kyoto, Aridagawa, Osaka, Okayama, and Naoshima. It was a lot of moving around with the help of the country's incredible train system. 

Although this was a work trip, we also were able to visit a lot of architecture, cultural attractions, and some beautiful landscapes. We each documented our trip in different ways to learn from our travels and inspire future designs. Below is a slideshow with images of textures and details of the places we visited along the way. 

We're Going Back to Japan!

If you’ve been following along with the Propel Studio story, you may be familiar with our collaborative efforts in Japan and Vietnam. We know there’s international interest in the design lessons and culture from Portland, Oregon, and we’re always excited to share our experiences.

In late 2015, through our collaborations with Prosper Portland, we had the opportunity to travel to Aridagawa, Japan to help a small town develop a new community asset. While we were there, we ran a series of community design workshops alongside PLACE studio. The goal was to engage the local residents to develop a new business incubator and community center that will help attract entrepreneurs and younger people to start business in the town.

Now, we’re going back!

This October, we’re excited to return to Aridagawa to see the results of the community design process and some of the completed work that came out of those workshops. Our new friends in Japan seemed to enjoy and even thrive in the community design process that we introduced to them and we look forward to seeing what creative ideas and businesses were started by the local community.

Community engagement workshops are a system that’s well rooted in Portland but was somewhat new to this small town in Japan. If you’re not familiar with the idea either, imagine a decision-making process for urban planning, architecture, and design that unites public, business and government needs and interests. It is a charrette process where all the diverse stakeholders convene in a place and everyone is able to communicate and influence the proposed development for the combined good of the community. In this case, we focused on how to convert an abandoned nursery school building into a thriving business and cultural hub.

When we go back this time, we’ll look forward to reconnecting with our friends in Aridagawa and hopefully, making new friends in Tokyo, Nanto, Osaka, and at Okayama University. These may seem like far-flung places, but we see a certain familiarity there. Many of the concerns and passions of our Japanese colleagues revolve around community-building, economic prosperity, equity, and multi-generational opportunities. Much of what we at Propel Studio design for and write about revolves around the same issues.

We’re looking forward to learning from new friends and hopefully sharing a little new knowledge and a process that will help build stronger, more vibrant communities for everyone involved.
 

You can learn more about our international efforts through a number of articles, including:

If you’d like to know more about our community design process or about how Portland design culture contribute to the design culture where you live, give us a call. We’ll be happy to talk about ways we can improve your community together.