Tokyo 1960s | Birth of Metabolism
Presented as a manifesto and advocated by Kenzo Tange in the 1960s, ‘Metabolism’ is a theory of architecture responding to the human and environmental catastrophe and vulnerability that followed the atomic bombing of Japan and earthquakes. It states that “buildings and cities should be designed and developed in the same continuous way that the material substance of a natural organism is produced”.
The manifesto was published at the World Design Conference with the opening statement:
“Metabolism is the name of the group, in which each member proposes further designs of our coming world through his concrete designs and illustrations. We regard human society as a vital process – a continuous development from atom to nebula. The reason why we use such a biological word, metabolism, is that we believe design and technology should be a denotation of human society. We are not going to accept metabolism as a natural process, but try to encourage active metabolic development of our society through our proposals.”
Kikutake’s Ocean City is one of the projects introduced at the conference, which was a combination of two previously published projects “Tower-shaped City” and “Marine City”. It was designed with the inner housing ring and the outer production ring which were tangent to one another. It was meant to control the population at an upper limit of 500, 000. Kikutake envisaged that the city would expand by multiplying itself like cell division. This enforced the Metabolist idea of comparing the expansion of cities with a biological process.
Tectonic Visions Between Land & Sea: Ocean City © 1968, Kiyonori Kikutake
From wartime to postwar redevelopment, the theory gave birth to visions of future cities, encouraging the realisation of such experimental architecture and providing the ground for many Japanese architects and designers to build their careers on. Our group will further discuss the development and influence of metabolism and give different built or unbuilt examples to illustrate the idea.