Tokyo 1960 | Artificial Ground

One month before the World Design Conference, Kawazoe came up with the fundamental idea of Metabolism: artificial ground (jinko tochi), unifying the diverse works the Metabolists were about to present at the Conference. Artificial ground is a form of adaptation to the absence of tabula rasa, or even basic stability and available space in Japan; if there is no ground to build on, Metabolism will adapt and build its own ground.


A Proposal: Let’s Liberate the Ground!

Noboru Kawazoe, Kindai Kenchiku, April 1960

In and around large cities such as Tokyo, the price of land is skyrocketing…The problem is that the land is not only already too expensive but also in critically short supply. This has been a major complication hampering the construction of new housing. However, it is exacerbated complications like this that trigger rapid or even revolutionary progress. The very difficulty of obtaining land is actually unfolding a new possibility for housing…Here is what I propose for new housing…

A. The image of the ground is always the basis for the image of a house. But today people are being liberated from fixed land towards a global scale. By liberating natural ground as it originally was – be it the pilotis hoisting proposed by Kisho Kurokawa or the grotto-like housing by Masato Otaka – I believe we could acquire a new awareness of the ground…

B. Our prime task is to provide people with land on demand, that is, artificial ground. It could be reinforced concrete slabs, or something like walls [that accommodate plug-in capsules], or floating on the ocean. The first has been proposed by Le Corbusier, the latter two by Kiyonori Kikutake in his Tower-Shaped Community and Marine City. The liberation of the ground would be the only justification for developing artificial ground. If it wasn’t for liberating the ground back to the original natural state, people won’t be motivated to live on artificial ground. Though the current malaise of land would inevitably force people to artificial ground to a certain degree, such an awareness is essential to realise artificial ground in such a way to solve the problem.


Inspired by Kawazoe, Kikutake and Kurokawa compiled their ideas so far: Metabolism 1960. Meanwhile Otaka and Maki, the other unit within Metabolism, collaborated on a Group Form Plan for Shinjuku station in Tokyo, which would also be part of the book. Kawazoe wrote a short text as introduction for the book and he was the one using the word ‘metabolism’ though every contributor talked about the renewal process in their plans for future cities.

“‘Metabolism’ is the name of the group, in which each member proposes future 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 vitality. We are not going to accept the metabolism as a natural historical process, but we are trying to encourage active metabolic development of our society through our proposals.” – Noboru Kawazoe’s introduction to Metabolism 1960

The introduction gave the feeling of a manifesto, though it is never explicitly described as such.



Rem Koolhaas & Hans Ulrich Obrist (2011) Project Japan : Metabolism Talks. 1st Ed. Taschen

2 Comments on “Tokyo 1960 | Artificial Ground

  1. It is interesting to see artificial ground as a metabolism that generates space for itself to build on. For a city like Tokyo which has the problem of land scarcity, it needs such kind of process to accommodate the highly dense population.In fact, many metropolis around the world adapt such metabolism, so we can see this as a trend not only limited to the condition in Tokyo. It would be better for us to understand how this theory is transformed into practice with the illustration of some new urban planning or projects happening in Tokyo.

    • You can read our previous posts to learn about how the theory is transformed into practice. Nagakin Capsule Tower and Tokyo Bay are two famous projects of Metabolism, while Nagakin Capsule Tower is a built example by Kurokawa, Plan for Tokyo 1960 is a research project done by Kenzo Tange about future systems of urban planning to exploit and possibilities of a new Tokyo.

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