The natural catastrophe that affected Japan's Fukushima Prefecture in March, 2011 provoked a wide spectrum of reactions around the world. For Chris Robinson, who met his wife in Fukushima and lives in California, the natural disaster was personal. In response to the horrific event that killed and displaced thousands, the former Facebook and PayPal art director, who has no background in construction or boating experience, has spent the last two years building a floatable tsunami-proof capsule in his Palo Alto backyard.
As Mr. Robinson watched the day-to-day coverage of the catastrophic event, he began to formulate a resilient design that would be able to withstand the strong forces of a tsunami. After sketching his tsunami-ball design with Adobe Illustrator and consulting a few engineers to confirm the structure’s potential buoyancy, he began to work on its construction.
Since the initial idea, Robinson has spent the better part of two years and up to eight hours a day building the 22-foot-long, 10-foot-wide, 8.5-foot-high wooden capsule, which is made of interlocking pieces of plywood and epoxy. Recently installed with portholes, the buoyant structure was inspired by oil-derrick escape pods and a Canadian artist who builds tree-hanging wooden spheres as hotel rooms.
Once work on the oval storm shelter is complete, the gaps within the plywood skeleton will be filled with buoyant foam and the boat will be equipped with an electric motor and a structural keel. Solar panels will also be installed and connected to batteries. Robinson hopes to finish his ambitious project in May followed by one very hopeful test run in the Pacific Ocean.