The not consist of static objects, but be ever

The Japanese modern architecture movement known as
‘Metabolism’ began in the late 1950’s. However, the movements most influential
work came to fruition throughout the 1960’s and into the early 70’s. After the
architecture group known as CIAM founded by Le Corbusier and other Western
architects disbanded in 1959, the metabolist movement filled the void left in
modern Japanese architecture. The large scale damage caused by the second world
war presented a blank canvas for the future of its urban design and public
spaces. The metabolist architects believed cities should not consist of static
objects, but be ever evolving and organic. Architecture with a ‘metabolism’.
Any structures built after the war that took into the consideration population
growth, should have a limited lifespan and should have a replaceable design. In
order to meet these requirements metabolist architecture is built a central
structure which acts like a spine. Cell like pods are easily attached to the
spinal structure. When the lifespan is over each pod can be replaced.   

 

Metabolist plans such as space cities and suspended urban
landscape pods where so advanced they were never fully achieved. A theoretical
plan for a floating city in the Tokyo Bay was presented to the World Design
Conference in 1960 by Kenzo Kurokawa. Helix City created by Kisho Kurokawa in
1961 was his metabolic solution for urbanism. Meanwhile in the united states theoretical
architects where also being exhibited. Anne Tyng presented her City tower
design and Friedrich St. Florian his 300 story vertical city. The 1960 Word
Design Conference in Tokyo was a chance for young Japanese architects to
challenge the traditional European ideas about urbanism. The
ideas and philosophies of Fumihiko Maki, Masato Otaka, Kiyonari Kikutake, and
Kisho Kurokawa were consolidated in a document called ‘Metabolism 1960’. Many
of these architects were taught by Kenzo Tange at Tokyo university. Some people
believe that work taught on Kenzo Tange course was influenced by American
architect Louis Khan. The stacked modular towers designed for the Richards
medical centre by Kahn firm reassembled the ideals of metabolism. This
previously unseen use of space became a precedent. Anne Tyng, was a partner at
Kahn firm and influenced his work. Habitat ’67 in Montreal, Canada was designed
by Moshe Safdie who was an apprentice of Louis Khan. Some believe that the
design of Johnson Wax Research tower by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1950, was the
initial influence for these architects.

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A
short book called “The proposal for a New Urbanism” was written collectively by
Kenzo Tange, Masato Otaka, Fumihiko Maki, Noboru Kawazoe, Kisho Kurokawa,
kiyoshi Awazu and Kiyonori Kikutake. The book was released at the World Design
Conference in 1960. The name Mega-structures was given to many of the projects
by these architects. The plans they designed where often large or for entire
cities. The belief was that cities are alive and change with time, like a living
organism. Japan’s population was growing rapidly, so buildings designed by
these architects where often for a large number of people and could be changed
when its purpose expired. Possibly the most notable example is Nakagin Capsule
Tower by Kisho Kurokawa in 1972. Each rectangular module was an apartment with
a solitary round window. These Capsules versatile and interchangeable, each one
can be moved to a new position or replaced. When advances are made the older
modules can be replaced with a newer model. However, the current occupants plan
to demolish Kurokawa’s building in order to construct something larger. 1

Figure 1.

 

The Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne, more
commonly known as CIAM, was founded in Switzerland in 1928. The aim of this architectural
association was to introduce modernism on a global scale. Based upon urban
patterns in the United States in 1930s, CIAM encouraged the idea that urban
development should be guided by four functional categories: work,
transportation, dwelling and recreation. 2 By the mid- 1930’s CIAM had become
a pseudo-political party. Le Corbusier and other architects within the group
had the goal of promoting modern architecture on a global scale. In the post-
war period Le Corbusier and other members of CIAM began to design architecture in
the City of Chandigarh, India. Their modernist goals first gained traction
though this architecture.

CIAM in the early 1950’s was losing its avant-garde
advantage which paved the way for younger architects, such as the members of
Team 10 who formed in 1954. This multi-national group which included Dutch
architects Jacob Bakema and Aldo van Eyck, Italian Giancarlo De Carlo,
Greek Georges Candilis, the British architects Peter and Alison Smithson and
the American Shadrach Woods. The Team 10 architects, in particular Jacob Bakema,
encouraged the combination of architecture and urban planning. This was
demonstrated in the concepts “human association”, “Cluster” and “Mobility”. The
four function mechanical approach of CIAM was rejected which resulted in the
end of the older group. 3  

 

Kenzo Tange was invited to
Otterlo in the Netherlands for the CIAM ’59 meeting of the association. Kenzo
presented two theoretical projects, in what would be the last meeting of CIAM.
Both Projects where designed by Kiyornori Kikutake: The Tower-shaped City and
Kikutake’s own home, the Sky House. This provided the Metabolist movement their
first opportunity to present to an international audience. The metabolist
exploration into new concepts in urban design much resembled Team 10’s human
association. 4 Tower-shaped City, much like its name suggests was a 300-metre-tall tower which contained
the infrastructure for an entire city. Included was a manufacturing plant which created
prefabricated parts for houses, as well as transportation and services for the
residents. The tower created ‘Artificial land’ onto which the prefabricated
steel parts made in the manufacturing plant could be assembled. These capsule
homes would undergo self- renewal every fifty years. Kikutake proposed that the
city would expand naturally as more capsules where added, like the branches of
a tree. 4

 

Sky House is constructed from
a large platform which is supported with four rectangular concrete pillars. The
building is topped by a hyperbolic paraboloid shell roof. The single space design
was divided by storage units with a kitchen and a bathroom both on the outer
edge. 5 These two rooms were designed to move to adapt to the needs of the
house and have changed position around seven times in sixty years. At some
stage in the evolutions of the house a small hanging room was added below the
main floor. The room was built as a children’s bedroom with an entrance between
the two rooms. 6

Figure 3.

 

After leaving the CIAM meeting, Tange taught as a visiting professor
for four months at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The project for the
5th Year Students was to design a residential community of 25,000 inhabitants
in the water of Boston Bay. Its possible Tange set this project based on the
feedback received at CIAM 59. 7

  

Tange’s new prototype for urban design was created to give a more
human link to large scale cities. Using a series major and minor structures he
considered how a city could grow in life cycles like the trunk and leaves of a
tree. 8 One of the seven Boston Bay Projects designed by his students,
perfectly captured his vision. Two large residential structures, triangular in
section made up the main part of the project. A series of motoways and
monorails provided movement laterally, while elevators provided movement vertically
from the car parks. Every third floor had walkways which connected rows of
family houses. The buildings had openings which were communal spaces. 8 Tange’s
competition every for the design for the world health organisation headquarters
in Geneva shared similarities with the Boston Bay Project. 9 Its possible
that the Bay project was influenced by Tange’s unrealised design. Either way
these projects had a crucial impact on his future projects, in particular the “Plan
for Tokyo -1960”. Tange used the world design conference in Tokyo to present
both the Boston Bay project and The Plan for Tokyo. 10

After presenting his project to the academic world at the
World Design Conference, Kenzo spread his influence further a field on a
45-minute television programme on NHK. 11 This radical plan for urban
expansion was to reorganise the city of Tokyo to provide for 10 million
residents. 12 The population increased by 10 million between 1950 and 1960,
these people where mainly distributed around already crowded urban elements. To
construct the linear extension to the city Kenzo used a series of modules
nine-kilometre modules which extend eighty kilometres across the Tokyo Bay,
connecting Ikebukuro in the north to Kisarazu in the south. Tange insisted that
communication was key factor when designing for modern living. The Tokyo Bay
expansion was to have multiple levels of highways which looped around the
perimeter of each module. 11 12 Each module was designed with a specific purpose and are
organised into construction zones, transport links and include considered sites
for offices, government buildings and retail districts. A new train station
would connect the development to the rest of Tokyo with the help of new highway
links. The residential areas consisted of parallel streets of large A-frame
structures. These structures would align with the main linear axis like the
Boston Bay project. 13

 

 

Tange designed the project at his studio at Tokyo
University with the help of Kurokawa and Arata Isozaki. The project was named “Plan
for Tokyo 1960” because it was intended to publish the plan at the World Design
Conference, however the same members were working on the world design
conference which meant publication was delayed. 14 A number of Government
agencies were interested in the project but it was never built. 11 The Tokaido
Megalopolis Plan 1964 was an expansion on Kenzo Tange’s ideas of the linear
city. In order to re-distribute the population, the proposal was to extend
Tokyo linear city over the entire Tokaido region. 15

 

Osaka
in Japan was chosen as the location for the 1970 international Exposition.  This was the last collective demonstration by
metabolist architects. The credit for the success of the Expo was given to
Kenzo Tange, this led to individual architects of the movement to start working
more independently. The site picked for the 1970 Expo was 330 hectares in the
Senri Hills in the Osaka region. 16 The original date for the Expo was 1940,
however it was cancelled due to the escalation to war. All tickets sold in 1940
were accepted at the 1970 Expo. 17

  

The Theme committee for the
Expo was joined by Uso Nishiyama and Kenzo Tange who designed the masterplan
for the event. The progression and harmony for mankind became the theme for the
Expo.  Arata Isozaki, Masato Otaka, Kisho
Kikutake and nine other architects where chosen by Kenzo Tange to design a
unique structure. 16 The task of designing the transportation and furnishing was
given to Kenji Ekuan due to his success in industrial design and huge space
frame roof covered a mid-Air exhibition which was curated by Noboru Kawazoe.
17 The intention was for the Expo to function as a large festival where
people could meet. Tange’s original design for the site connected the themed
displays to a central plaza under one huge roof. 18 The Tokyo Bay Project was personified by Tange as he
described the city as having two types of information transmission systems:
Fluid and electronic. In the Bay project the city was based upon a tree, its
branches would carry these transmissions throughout. The huge roof that covered
the central plaza was compared to an electronic transmission system. Kawazoe
also compared the ariel-themed displays that plugged into the roof to a
hormonal system. 19 A selection of international architects where picked to
design displays in the mid-air exhibition incorporated in the roof. The
architects invited included Moshe Safdie, Yona Friedman, Hans Hollein and Giancarlo
De Carlo. 20 These architects had produced designs which aligned with the ideas
of the metabolist.

 

 

Although Tange was fascinated
with the flexibility that space frames could provide, he realised demonstrating
this at the Expo was not practical when fixing displays. 19 The roof itself
was designed by Koji Kamaya and Kawaguchi and was conceived out of one large
space frame. The Frame could be assembled on site using a welding free ball and
joint system created Kawaguchi. After being constructed on the the space frame
was raised into place using jacks. 21

 

A notable landmark of the 1970
Exposition in Osaka, was Kikutake’s Expo Tower which was placed on the highest
point of the site. This building became a reference point for many visitors.
The structure is comprised of a vertical ball and joint frame onto which
different modules can be attached. The blueprint was supposed to have been for
an adaptable vertical living, because of Japans lack of space. The design was
based around 360m3 Cast aluminium and Glass module which could be
placed anywhere on the ball and joint frame. At the Exposition this was
demonstrated by a variety of different modules which used as observation
platforms, a VIP area and the ground floor module was an information centre for
the expo. 22 Kurokawa’s designs for the Takara Beautillion and Toshiba IHI
Pavilion both won a place at the Expo. 23 Takara Beautillion was built using
a series of six points frames into which capsules could be attached and only
took six days to construct. The frame for the Toshiba IHI Pavilion was
comprised of tetrahedron modules and was based upon his helix city which could
resemble organic growth by branching out inn twelve different directions. 24

 

The 1970 Expo was described as the metabolist ideals raised to a divine
level. 17 However, even before the world energy crisis ended japans period of
rapid economic growth, critics already referred to the economic growth as
utopia which was detached from reality. 25 Japan’s reliance on imported oil
at the time of the world energy crisis meant rethinking the design and
architecture being constructed. Larger scale utopian projects where replaced
with smaller urban interventions. 26 The metabolist movement capitalised on a dark time in Japans
history. The use of the atomic bomb destroyed two of japans major cities
creating an opportunity to rebuild and improve the old cities. Also, despite
the war Japans population continued to growth exponentially, increasing 10
million between 1950 and 1960, increasing the demand to housing on japans
little buildable land.

The
Metabolist sore a demand for architecture that could evolve to meet the needs
of the population or that could be easily replaced when that objective couldn’t
be achieved. However, this aim was never fully realized. For example, Nakagin
capsule tower was design in a way in which a capsule could be replaced with a
newer model. However, these capsules cannot be removed individually meaning any
changes in the building have to be a unanimous decision between all residents. For
an individual owner to purchase a new capsule was not made available with no manufacturers
promoting different layouts and functions. The ability for individuals to
tailor their capsule to their specific needs, would have perfectly captured the
metabolist visions of living architecture, as well as allowing owners to create
their own unique space. The building was out of date even before construction
was completed and degrading pipework has caused many capsules to rot making
them uninhabitable. Many of the current residents want to demolish the tower to
construct a newer building.

 

On
the other hand, in comparison Sky House, the home built by Kiyonori Kikutake
was relatively successful. The house served as a manifesto of the architectural
ideas and you can see features of the metabolist movement within its domestic
design. Since construction in 1958 the house has been adapted at least seven
times to meet the needs of the occupant. However, considering the influence of this
architectural movement on an international scale, implanting this structure
into foreign climate demonstrates ramifications to lighting, wind and other
environmental responses. Which may show the architectures inability to function
outside a specific urban environment.

 

Overall
the ideas and designs of the metabolist movement raised the question as to how
architecture should behave over time. Their range of designs which showed
architecture as a living cell presented an innovative solution to population change,
especially with so many countries struggling with the issue of overcrowding in
their major cities. However, many of the metabolist designs failed to reach the
construction stage and those that did, are struggling to fit in with a modern
urban aesthetic, which is partly due to the unpredictable evolution of taste.
Many building and conceptual designs by members of this movement, were quite
heavily focused on Functionality, creating identical spaces which, in numerous
cases, lacked individual personality or character. Metabolism was a movement which
present important ideas to the thinking behind our architectural design, although
ultimately was flawed by its unique style. The architecture was design with the
ability to change functional, however the consideration for changes in taste
was not really conceived. Architecture which catered to human physicality,
rather than emotional response.