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Metabolist Movement

Metabolism can be defined as a chemical processes that occurs
with in an organism to maintain its life.
If architecture is used as a meta-organism. Metabolism in
architecture is a processes that occur with in the architecture to
maintain and sustain it.
There are three levels of metabolism to consider for
architecture in the urban environment.
The city's infrastructure is
viewed as its vascular system
which transports urban nutrients
from one place to another.
In this vascular
water and gas pipelines
electricity cables and wires
food and
roadways and
people vehicles
At meso level metabolism occurs with in the
Architecture is reliant up on people to sustain it.
The architecture also takes in resources, such as
water and energy, which prevents deterioration of
the physical structure and maintain interior
environment .
The micro level
metabolism seeks to
strengthen the
relationship between
humans and
architecture in which
they dwell, by
providing not only
shelter, but food and
water also as well.
The architecture
will do this while
maintaining the
macro, meso and
micro relationships.
The metabolism in architecture or metabolist movement was initially
originated in japan. In the late 1950s a small group of young Japanese architects
and designers joined forces under the title of "Metabolism". Their visions for
cities of the future inhabited by a mass society were characterized by large scale,
flexible, and expandable structures that evoked the processes of organic growth.
In their view, the traditional laws of fixed form and function were obsolete.
Metabolism arose in post-World War II Japan, and so much of the work
produced by the movement is primarily concerned with housing issues.
The World Design Conference of 1960 was held in Japan, and a group of
young Japanese architects were involved with the planning. Under the
guidance of Kenzo Tange, the architects Takashi Asada, Kisho Kurokawa,
Kiyonori Kikutake, and writer Noboru Kawazoe often met and discussed the
direction of Japanese architecture and urbanism. During the World Design
Conference, the Metabolist group presented their first declaration as a bilingual
pamphlet called Metabolism 1960: The proposals for a New Urbanism.
The ideas of Metabolism as implemented in modern culture were philosophical as well
as architectural, and ostensibly based on Buddhist notions of impermanence and
change. Changeability and Flexibility were the key elements that the Melabolist
Group Seized upon and explored.
Metabolist designs relied heavily on advanced technology, and they often consist of
adaptable plug-in mega structures.
Metabolism, as we know it, is the biological process by which life is maintained through
the continuous cycle of producing and destroying protoplasm.
To the Japanese architects who adopted the name, it meant creating a dynamic
environment that could live and grow by discarding its out-dated parts and regenerating
newer, more viable elements.
To develop a building system that could cope with the problems of our rapidly changing
society, and at the same time maintain stabilized human lives Noboru Kawazoe, From
Metabolism to Metapolis-Proposal for the City of the Future,
Habitat 67 is a housing complex and landmark located on the Marc-
Drouin Quay on the Saint Lawrence River at 2600, Pierre Dupuy Avenue
in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Its design was created by architect Moshe
Safdie based on his master's thesis at McGill University and built as part
of Expo 67.
Expo 67 was nicknamed "Man and his World", taken from Antoine de Saint Exupry's
memoir Terre des hommes (literally "Land of Men"), translated as Wind, Sand and Stars.
Housing was one of the main themes of Expo 67. Habitat 67 then became a thematic
pavilion visited by thousands of visitors who came from around the world. During Expo 67
it was also the temporary residence of the many dignitaries coming to Montreal.
It was designed to integrate the variety and diversity of scattered private
homes with the economics and density of a modern apartment building.
Modular, interlocking concrete forms define the space. The project was
designed to create affordable housing with close but private quarters, each
equipped with a garden. The building was believed to illustrate the new
lifestyle people would live in increasingly crowded cities around the world. The
complex was originally meant to be vastly larger. Due to its architectural cachet,
demand for the building's units has made them more expensive than originally
The building is owned by its tenants, who formed a limited partnership that
purchased the building from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in
The Nakagin Capsule Tower
is a mixed-use residential and
office tower designed by
architect Kisho Kurokawa
and located in Shimbashi,
Tokyo, Japan.
Completed in 1972, the
building is a rare built
example of Japanese
Metabolism, a movement that
became emblematic of Japan's
post-war cultural resurgence.
The building was the world's
first example of capsule
architecture built for actual
The building is still in use as
of 2010, but has fallen into
Nakagin Capsule
A sample
room within
the Nakagin
Capsule Tower
Recognized by its
inhabitants as being 'squalid'
and 'cramped' they voted to
demolish it and start over.
While this would be the
erasure of a key example of
one of the few realized and
even fewer extant examples of
the Japanese Metabolist style,
its preservation would go
against the very tenants of the
style's own making.
Introduced at the World Design Conference in Tokyo in 1960,
by the Japanese Architects Kenzo Tange, Kisho Kurokawa, and
Kiyonoru Kikutake, this style was intended to create structures
that were
thought of as a tree- a permanent element, with the dwelling units
as leaves- temporary elements which fall down and are renewed
according to the needs of the moment. The buildings can grow
within this structure and die and grow again- but the structure
remains .
The structure within Kurokawa's tree is not the problem- but the
leaves themselves. Outmoded, these machines for living hang on.
Contrary to the Metabolist mantra, they were never regenerated.
They are all in their autumnal state with no new buds to take
their place.
As Ouroussoff explains,
In theory, more capsules could be plugged-in or removed whenever
needed. The idea was to create a completely flexible system, one that
could be adapted to the needs of a fast-paced, constantly changing society.
The building became a symbol of Japan's technological ambitions, as well
as of the increasingly nomadic existence of the white-collar worker.
But resistance against change, and the impractical nature of
replacement modules has left this building static, and unable to achieve
the flexibility its creation strove to realize. The author's very
acknowledgement that nobody has "stepped up with a viable plan for how
to save it" is ironic in that its salvation is in own leprosy and regeneration.
It by its very existence was meant to shed its parts to the technological
trash heap and be rebuilt. What would ever be expected to remain is the
"permanent"- the armature holding the units- a skeleton never recognized
as the organizing factor .
Kenzo Tange was a Japanese architect,
and winner of the 1987 Pritzker Prize for
architecture. He was one of the most
significant architects of the 20th century,
combining traditional Japanese styles
with modernism, and designed major
buildings on five continents. Tange was
also an influential protagonist of the
structuralism movement. He said: "It
was, I believe, around 1959 or at the
beginning of the sixties that I began to
think about what I was later to call
structuralism", (cited in Plan 2/1982,
Influenced from an early age by the
Swiss modernist, Le Corbusier, Tange
gained international recognition in 1949
when he won the competition for the
design of Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Park. Joining the group of architects
known as Team X in the late 1950s he
steered the group towards the
movement that became .
The modular expansion of Tange's Metabolist
visions had some influence on Archigram with their plug-
in mega structures. The Metabolist movement gave
momentum to Kikutake's career. Although his Marine
City proposals (submitted by Tange at CIAM) were not
realized, his Miyakonojo City Hall (1966) was a more
Metabolist example of Tange's own Nichinan Cultural
Centre (1962). Although the Osaka Expo had marked a
decline in the Metabolist movement, it resulted in a
"handing over" of the reigns to a younger generation of
architects such as Kazuo Shinohara and Arata Isozaki.
In an interview with Jeremy Melvin at the Royal
Academy of Arts, Kengo Kuma explained that, at the age
of ten, he was inspired to become an architect after
seeing Tange's Olympic arenas, which were constructed
in 1964.
Yona Friedman became a French citizen in 1966. In 1956,
the X International Congress of Modern Architecture in
Dubrovnik, his "Manifeste de l'architecture mobile"
contributed to question definitely the daring will planning
to architectural design and urbanism. It was during that
conference, and thanks especially to the youth of the Team
10, that "mobile architecture" was coined in the sense of
"mobility of living." With the example of "Ville spatiale",
Friedman set out - for the first time - the principles of an
architecture capable of understanding the constant changes
that characterize the "social mobility" and based on
"infrastructure" that provide housing. Planning rules could
be created and recreated, according to the need of the
inhabitants and residents. Its focus on people themselves
arises from its direct experience of homeless refugees, first
in European cities facing war and disaster and later in
Israel, where, in the early years of the State, thousands of
people landed every day, with housing problems
In 1958, Yona Friedman published his first manifesto : "Mobile
architecture". It described a new kind of mobility not of the buildings, but for
the inhabitants, who are given a new freedom.
Mobile architecture is the "dwelling decided on by the occupant" by way of
"infrastructures that are neither determined nor determining". Mobile
architecture embodies an architecture available for a "mobile society". To deal
with it, the classical architect invented "the Average Man". The projects of
architects in the 1950s were undertaken, according to Friedman, to meet the
needs of this make-believe entity, and not as an attempt to meet the needs of the
actual members of this mobile society.
The teaching of architecture was largely responsible for the "classical"
architect's under-estimation of the role of the user. Furthermore this teaching did
not embrace any real theory of architecture. Friedman proposed then teaching
manuals for the fundamentals of architecture for the general public.
The spatial city, which is a materialization of this theory, makes it possible for
everyone to develop his or her own hypothesis. This is why, in the mobile city,
buildings should :
touch the ground over a minimum area
be capable of being dismantled and moved
and be alterable as required by the individual occupant.
This structure introduce a kind of merger between countryside and city and may span:
certain unavailable sites,
areas where building is not possible or permitted (expanses of water, marshland),
areas that have already been built upon (an existing city),
above farmland.
This spanning technique which includes container structures ushers in a new
development in town-planning. Raised plans increase the original area of the city
becoming three-dimensional. The tiering of the spatial city on several independent
levels, one on top of the other, determines "spatial town-planning" both from the
functional and from the aesthetic viewpoint. The lower level may be earmarked for
public life and for premises designed for community services as well as pedestrian
areas. The piles contain the vertical means of transport (lifts, staircases). The
superposition of levels should make it possible to build a whole industrial city, or a
residential or commercial city, on the same site. In this way, the Spatial City forms an
"artificial topography". This grid suspended in space outlines a new cartography of the
terrain with the help of a continuous and indeterminate homogeneous network with a
major positive outcome: this modular grid would authorize the limitless growth of the
The Spatial City is the most significant application of "mobile architecture".
It is a spatial, three-dimensional structure raised up on piles which contains
inhabited volumes, fitted inside some of the "voids", alternating with other
unused volumes. It is designed on the basis of trihedral elements which
operate as "neighbourhoods" where dwellings are freely distributed.
To develop a building system that could cope with
the problems of our rapidly changing society, and
at the same time maintain stabilized human lives
Noboru Kawazoe, From Metabolism to Metapolis-
Proposal for the City of the Future,
Architecture Metabolism: a
restorative, organic architecture in
the urban : by Timothy Hoyles

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