It's been three years since the Tōhoku earthquake triggered powerful, 135-foot tsunami waves that devastated the coastal areas of Fukushima prefecture in Japan, causing a nuclear meltdown. Just after the disaster, footage of the catastrophic damage played repeatedly on televisions and computer screens throughout the world. After watching the devastation caused by the 2011 incident, Chris Robinson, a former art director for Facebook and Paypal, set out to construct a defense in the event that a tsunami were to ever strike his home—a "tsunami pod."
Made entirely of plywood and epoxy, the 22-foot long, 10-foot wide, 8.5-foot-high capsule is designed to act as a lifeboat; it's a buoyant structure that draws inspiration from oil rig escape pods and Free Spirit Spheres, wooden globes that double as hotel rooms found hanging from trees in British Columbia. In photographs, the exterior of the pod resembles the body of a whale, complete with an eye-like socket. Robinson saw the floatable design as a practical solution. "No one is going to wear a jet pack on their back as they work in their office," he tells Wired Magazine.
Using Adobe Illustrator, Robinson sketched plans for his mini-Noah's Ark, despite having never built a boat or sailed before. He's aware that it is highly unlikely a tsunami would ever reach as far inland as Palo Alto, California, and is quick to clarify that he is not some irrational survivalist. His personal connection to Fukushima is what inspired Robinson to build: he met his wife there while he was living in Japan in 1991. According to Robinson, his and his wife's favorite places were basically wiped out; building the pod pays tribute to those memories.
The Silicon Valley designer plans to have the outer shell of the pod finished by May, after which he hopes to find a crane that's capable of dropping in the Pacific Ocean for a "test float." And if it stays afloat? Robinson plans to rent it out on Airbnb, advertising it as "tsunami-proof."
Images via Mark Mahaney for Wired.