587: 5-Story Pagoda – Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan
Innovation: 5-story Pagoda (Earthquake Design)
Location: Ikaruga, Nara Precfecture, Japan
Year: 587 AD
By: Emperor Yomei
In 587 AD, the Emperor Yomei of Japan ordered for the construction of a Buddhist temple in belief that it would cure his illness. Emperor Yomei died shortly after construction began, however the temple continued to be built under his heir Empress Suiko. The five-story pagoda located in the temple is considered to be one of the oldest wooden structures still in existence today. The pagoda is believed to have burnt down in 670 AD but was reconstructed and completed in 711 AD . Japan is a hotspot for earthquake activity and the 122 foot tall pagoda has survived for around 1,300 years suffering very little damage from earthquakes. The pagoda and many others like it have been able to survive for so long due to the structure’s resistance to earthquakes.
The pagoda contains a wooden central column that is independent of the main structure of the building. Its purpose is to provide support to the structure from the swaying motion buildings undergo during earthquakes. No columns secure the stories of the building together, making them independent of one another. This allows for each story of the building to “act like a balancing toy, cancelling the inertia force of each story out among them” . The pagoda’s structural design has been used to help solve many design issues concerning buildings located in earthquake regions. `