Essay on japanese metabolism



I'm a second year architecture student and I'm looking to write an essay on Japanese metabolism, I find it a lot easier to write comparison essays. So, I'd appreciate any suggestions of modern architecture in the form of urban planning or buildings that relates to the ideas of impermenance and change around a framework. At the moment all I can think of is the Lloys building in London which at least had intentions of those ideals. However I would like to look at a bigger scheme (preferably urban planning) which I could then link to the ideals of metabolism and suggest this as a possibly way of future planning.



Apr 10, 17 10:54 am

I'd look at the Pompidou Center or Cedric Prince's speculative work as well. 

Apr 10, 17 11:00 am

moshe safdie's habitat concepts are architecturally similar but perhaps not conceptually on the same page as metabolism

fumihko maki's Group Form theory is related to metabolism and developed in that same time period.

one recent thing that is close to metabolism in concept is Elemental's housing concepts that build out shells and allow inhabitants to fill in their houses as needed over time

Apr 10, 17 1:56 pm
Non Sequitur

Safdie's habitat pre-dates the japanese metabolist. Maki's vertical village ideas is closest.


Are you sure? Metabolism began forming as an idea almost right after the war. GK had already designed and built the first "capsule," a telephone booth, in 1953. Safdie's thesis, on which Habitat was based, wasn't complete until 1961, after the 1960 Tokyo World Design Conference, which was when the first (and only) Metabolist "manifesto" debuted.


Yes from what I've read, it was partially inspired by the need to rebuild after the vast destruction of the war, and also Maki was one of the original formers of the metabolisits


Thanks, I'll take a look

Apr 10, 17 2:16 pm

Marty, read up on the Situationalists, I recommend "The Situationalist City" by Simon Sadler to start. Yona Friedman is another early pioneer to read up on. For the Metabolists, just start with Rem Koolhaas' Project Japan and then read Isozaki's classic "Japan-ness in Architecture" for a deeper look at Japanese architecture from the post-war period going back. Of course, the usual suspects like Archigram and Cedric Price need to be considered. There's a new, exhaustive tome out on Cedric Price from the AA that you can check-out.

Apr 10, 17 9:45 pm

One more thing, to bring this into the present, have a look at "Void Metabolism" put out by Atelier Bow-wow, Nishizawa, and Kitayama, which argues that present day Tokyo is already an example of a Metabolist city, even if it looks nothing like what the greats imagined back in the 50s & 60s

Apr 10, 17 10:08 pm

Project Japan. Metabolism Talks by Koolhaas /Hans Ulrich Obrist is brilliant - a must for library.

Apr 11, 17 3:46 am

Thanks everyone!

I've also been told to look at Sejima's work by my history and theory lecturer and apparently the concepts of Habitat 67 in particular are being revived today.

Apr 13, 17 3:48 am

Im not incredibly knowledgeable on Japanese metabolism, other than  a cursory overview from modern architectural history courses - have you considered a comparison to those uber-cool (mostly theoretical) shipping container projects that were all the rage not long ago? They don't seem to have taken off like so many thought they would, probably for good reason, but the ideals of pre-fab/unitized residential development appear in both. Considering the crisis of affordable housing in so many major urban capitals you could potentially analyse the context that pushed those proposals forward in 60's-80's Tokyo vs. the current climate of New York / London / Vancouver / etc. from 2000-today.

Apr 13, 17 4:33 am

I hadn't, thats a great idea. Thanks

most of the contemporary architecture in japan is strongly connected to metabolism. Sou Fujimoto is totally continuing the tradition. Its super cool, a huge waste of floor area, apparently random, highly affected and stylized. Western architecture is harder to compare to metabolism, but if you follow the logic of archigram you end up with rogers, piano, ingenhoven, etc. That is less visually obvious connection, but the techno heavy approach is surely what the metabolists and archigramers etc were all into at the time. That side of things did not go anywhere in Japan, was very influential in the west.

No idea if anyone is writing about the above. Its pretty obvious on the face of things. Second the books in previous posts. Koolhaas' recent book on metabolism is very good. The metabolist book with kojima and nishizawa also a nice one.

On bigger scale Metabolism was definitely urban planning oriented, more than the archigram works. If looking for an example Masdar is easy to compare to Kenzo Tange or Kisho Kurokawa's work in the middle east. Almost identical forms. More technology now, lots of optimism in both. Smart city concept can also be argued for as an extension of the tech side of things.

Apr 14, 17 8:41 pm

Maybe consider looking into David Gouverneur's work with informal settlements. He advocates for designing armatures as a way of addressing rapid urbanization in self-constructed communities.

Apr 16, 17 5:31 pm

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