Tokyo | How the Metabolist Movement Helped Influence Modern Architecture

Even though the Metabolist movement was short-lived (around two decades), the ideal and vision it portrayed followed through the trajectory of modern architecture. The main idea of creating a city with infinite reserves and able to transform like an organism throughout the course of time and habitat, which aimed to tackle problems of mobility, density and tradition, still influenced modern architects and architecture.

There were of course setbacks where people criticised or discussed the relative “success” of the movement, for example the Nakagin Capsule Tower. Toyo Ito, who worked for Metabolist architect Kikutake for a while, remembered feeling disillusioned to see the Metabolist ideas for the city of the future becoming too concrete, especially with the 1970 Expo held in Osaka. Perhaps that coupled with the idea of the future stressed in Metabolism not dealing with the present too urgently, He turned away from Metabolism.

However, the influence on individual architectural projects is still visible. Capsule fiberglass hotel pods around Asia and Australia have become a popular phenomenon. Some can even argue that the recent rise of micro apartments in New York City, Boston, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong came from Metabolist ideas too, to build vertical small dwellings with better design and functionality fitted for densely populated cities with a high living standard. Around 10000 architects, designers, researchers and engineers gathered at the 24th World Congress of Architecture in 2010 to discuss Design 2050, where Metabolism ideals excited many participants.

Rem Koolhas, who is the mastermind behind many globally renowned architecture, reconstructed the history and evolution of Metabolism in the book “Project Japan: Metabolism Talks” along with Hans Ulrich Obrist. The book was released along with the Metabolist exhibition in Mori Art Museum in Tokyo’s Roppongi district. He is very fascinated about the vision Metabolism conveyed and even deemed it “the last movement that changed architecture.”

4 Comments on “Tokyo | How the Metabolist Movement Helped Influence Modern Architecture

  1. The idea of Metabolism is not confined to individual architectural scale, but it did attempt to apply to larger city scale. Kenzo Tange has proposed an extensive plan for Tokyo Bay in 1960 to build a city on the water to deal with the pressing housing issue in Tokyo at that time but at the end the plan was not realised due to the huge capital required and controversy about the “inhumane” living environment with the design of identical housing units.

    • We are aware of the other projects during the Metabolist period but this post wishes to discuss more about the continuation of these ideas after the movement passed, mainly how architects in the nearer present are influenced by the ideas left behind by the Metabolist architects.

  2. Although most of the ideas of ‘Metabolism Movement’remain on paper, it is interesting to see how the idea of ‘gradual growth and transformation throughput time’ not just only be implemented in building scale, but also in a wider city scale. Some of the avant-garde proposals such as Tokyo Bay, Marine City and Pear City Project challenges the traditional view of many urban designers on what is the ideal urban form in post -war redevelopment and its possibilities of adapting potential growth and expansion.

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