Epilogue – Equilibrium as Destiny of Modernity/ The Alternative Modernism

Epilogue – Equilibrium as Destiny of Modernity/ The Alternative Modernism


“The Metabolists had no skepticism toward their utopia. I thought they were too optimistic” Arata Isozaki averred.


The catastrophe of Hiroshima was brought to light again after 23 years. The “Destruction of the Future City” (1968) montage displayed the megastructure and the severely ruined Hiroshima panorama photograph. The montage is very much about Isozaki’s critique towards modernization. During the most glorious years of metabolism, the Japanese architects like Kisho Kurokawa and Kenzo Tange were very passionate about their utopian city.

Arata made a different prophecy, manifesting an entirely different vision of modernization: destruction and ruins, as the finale of the visionary modern architecture and urbanism.

Yet. Hiroshima recovered from ruins. Destroyed by imperialism, militarism, and industrialism , Hiroshima reconstruction was a re-evaluation of pre-war modernism. The emperor, the highly standardised industry and well-ordered military had been the ideological centre of Hiroshima. With the establishment of SCAP, the massive destruction and the agony of Hiroshima citizens, it had a desire to transform and demonstrate an alternative for modernisation.


The critical reflection of modernity might be the forerunner of post-modernism and later intellectual movement. Such desire might also explain the reason why metabolism became the first architectural movement that affects the Western world from the East.


However as for Hiroshima context, it did not strive for reinterpretation of modernity from symbolic, visual and formal context, but from its destination and ultimate destiny. The pre-war modernity in Hiroshima put much emphasis on reproduction, expansion and control, as implied by its position as a military city.


Post-war modernity is aware of destiny of modernization. It is no longer the endless expansion of power and order. The Hiroshima post-war modernity is about reaching for an equilibrium state, reaching for remembrances and reaching for peace and making peace. This could be inferred when Kenzo Tange described his reconstruction plan as making Hiroshima into a “factory of Peace”.


Such alternative modernism was crystallized and maintained in Hiroshima. People no longer  strive for a national symbol that bond the country nor “Japan-ness” as a cultural or aesthetic regime. Article 1 of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction law states that “It shall be the objective of the present law to provide for the reconstruction of the city of Hiroshima, as a peace memorial city of Hiroshima, to symbolize the human ideal of the incere pursuit of a genuine and lasting peace.”



Pursuit of material and power is almost ceaseless; but pursuit of peace could reach a state of equilibrium. This is arguably a paradigm shift of conception. In Hiroshima context, the state of equilibrium is carefully maintained by the Peace Memorial City Construction Law, land readjustment and green area planning. Despite economic consideration were prioritized in the Motomachi zoning, green areas were still secured, which define the character of today’s Hiroshima.


The collection of our writings is titled Modernization 2.0. This is not only because post-war modernization is subsequent to pre-war modernization, but also because post-war modernization demonstrates another dimension or alternative direction and option of modernization.





Koolhaas, R., Obrist, H. U. O., & Kayoko, W. (2011). Project Japan: metabolism talks.. (No. 72.037/. 038 (52)). Taschen,.

2 Comments on “Epilogue – Equilibrium as Destiny of Modernity/ The Alternative Modernism

  1. It is an interesting and sensible view to conclude Hiroshima’s post-war reconstruction as a pursuit for peace and equilibrium, but it is also rather vague to state peace-making as the ultimate objective of city-making in post-war Hiroshima.

    It is natural for reconstruction to come after destruction. It is of the most common sense that a city destroyed in war must be rebuilt after war. It also makes complete sense for the people to long for peace after the experiencing the restlessness of war. But how could a city be a “factory of Peace”? How could ‘peace’, such an abstract and relative concept, become a spatial concept? I think to say that the modernity of post-war Hiroshima is a peace-making one aiming to reach equilibrium would need more solid spatial evidence that would distinct the urban development of Hiroshima from that of other cities during post-war period. Without that, the statement of ‘peace as objective’ would become nothing but an idealism, for one must distinguish the city as a memoir of peace, which is passive, from the city as a place for peace-making, which is active.

  2. The short writing is titled “Epilogue” because it is the very last piece in the collection and it refers to all the previous writings and tries to draw a conclusion from the previous narratives, so you may refer to all our 14 writings for more details. I believe Keith and Joey could answer more on development, rationale, and the ‘spatial evidence” of the Peace City.

    There are several points you may refer:
    (1) Hiroshima is the first city under atomic bomb attack.

    (2) The position of Hiroshima as a peace city was confirmed 4 years after the war. It is definitely not a natural result of post-war recovery. There had been many alternatives for Hiroshima, but “peace city” was confirmed mainly due to the establishment of “Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law” to gain national financial support. You may refer to “The Industrial City – Debates on Reconstruction Plans”.

    (3) The “spatial evidence”, despite I have reservation on this term, in our point of view, is the stress on infrastructural development in Hiroshima, construction of 100-meter boulevard, large area of green belts and parks, city centre revolving around Kenzo Tange’s Peace Memorial Park. These are all evident in the reading of the city fabric of Hiroshima, but the rationale behind such construction is rather embedded in the history.

    I hope this can answer your questions.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.