By Micheal E. Cooper
The construction of Lab 2 began in November 2010, and now that the ground floor slab is finished, work has begun on the steel superstructure that will serve as the skeleton of the building. When asked about preparations for the influx of researchers and students soon to join OIST, Director of Facilities and Construction John Dickison answered, "Everything is on time and running like clockwork. Lab 2 is 15% done and on schedule for completion in Spring 2012. We expect to begin moving new research units into the labs by June 2012."
The steel superstructure begins with raising vertical steel columns, and on the morning of May 16th, 2011, the first column of the Lab 2 building was raised. In accordance with long-held Japanese tradition, the construction workers and staff gathered in chilling winds and rain to perform a ceremony to commemorate the first column of Lab 2.
When asked why someone building a state-of-the-art scientific research center would adhere to ancient traditions, John Dickison, a long-time resident of Japan with several decades of experience working in the Japanese construction industry, suggested that rituals like this are important for worker attitude and commitment to excellence: "I think it all ties into how the Japanese workers approach their work site. They take their work very seriously, and everything is done very precisely, in a painstaking manner. The work ethic of the guys on the site is very good.... Japan is a great place to do construction, compared to most other countries in the world."
However, the OIST attitude toward Japanese culture and tradition is more than conformance to convention. While very much an international research center exploring the frontiers of science and technology, OIST celebrates the land, people and cultures of Japan and Okinawa, an environment which greatly enriches the lives of all who work and study here.
John Dickison addresses the construction team at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Only hours after the ceremony, there is a grove of steel columns nestled in the surrounding forest. Construction of the new lab, like the rest of the campus, is being conducted so as to have minimal impact on the environment, so instead of a flat expanse of leveled earth, the site looks like an island of construction surrounded by the natural greenery of the site.