japanese pavilion at venice biennale 2010
original content
sep 14, 2010
japanese pavilion at venice biennale 2010


‘tokyo metabolizing’, the official japan pavilion at the 12th international architecture biennale in venice, italy
image © designboom

‘tokyo metabolizing’, japan’s national pavilion for this year’s venice architecture biennale,
investigates architectural metabolism in the context of tokyo and its urban make-up.
introduced 50 years ago, the concept of ‘metabolizing’ was the first influential manifesto
regarding the city that was ever transmitted from japan to the world. it called for the replacement
of a city’s functional components as if it were a collective machine. the exhibition looks at
the ways in which tokyo has transformed and evolved through this concept.


scaled model of ‘moriyama house’ by ryue nishizawa
image © designboom

looking back on architecture’s history, the exhibition outlines the overriding designing factor
of cities worldwide: in mid-19th century paris, the imperial rule of napoleon III facilitated
a grand urban space that was single-handedly created based on one’s will; in early 20th century,
new york saw the rise of powerful capitalists which resulted in a number of skyscrapers defining the city space.

tokyo in the 21st century is introducing a new urban landscape being born out of the current
political and economical climate. the city has been subdivided into smaller and smaller plots
of land among approximately 1.8 million owners. buildings are constantly going through a state
of alteration and transformation, corresponding to the owner’s life cycle. contrary to european cities
where urban space is considered to be more or less a permanent structure, tokyo has embraced change
and the notion a city which exists only as phantom entities.

a video of the exhibited film

an exhibited video illustrates this constant change in a zoomed out, macrocosmic bird’s eye view on tokyo.
buildings are seen to constantly evolve at an accelerated pace, transforming the city into a living organism
going through an almost bacterial effect of transformation.


‘moriyama house’ with projected film in the background
image © designboom

two scaled models which demonstrate these theories dominate the rest of the exhibition space:
‘moriyama house’ by SANAA’s ryue nishizawa, a collection of white cubic volumes which
are located in an older section of tokyo. the structures are independent from one another save for
a garden way which links the surrounding areas. the owner has great freedom with the house,
living in one and renting the rest which results in a small community in the middle of the city.


interior shot of the ‘moriyama house’ model
image © designboom


interior views
images © designboom


a scaled model of ‘atelier bow-wow’ by yoshiharu tsukamoto and momoyo kaijima
image © designboom

the second model is of ‘atelier bow-wow’ by yoshiharu tsukamoto and momoyo kaijima.
located in a crowded section of low-rise residences, the 4 level dwelling redefines the gap
by producing an overall sense of openness: walls of adjacent houses function as ‘borrowed walls,
expanding the interior to the spaces in between the city. opportunities to dwell outside the house
is increased through the creation of semi-external spaces. the lower level of the house is translated
to the outside of the japanese pavilion, where viewers can duck under the ‘house frame’ to peak
into the basement office space.


dining room
image © designboom


(left) exterior
(right) looking in
images © designboom


looking into the upper level
image © designboom


split levels
image © designboom


(left) the model outside of the exhibition space, lower level of ‘atelier bow-wow’
(right) views of the office on the lower level
images © designboom


video of exhibition produced by wow inc. tokyo

full credit:

commissioner: koh kitayama
exhibitors: yoshiharu tsukamoto, ryue nishizawa
assistant commissioners: atsuko sato, marie suzuki
project management: hiroko hasama
overall design: architecture workshop (koh kitayama, nao norohashi)
construction: harmoge srl
graphic design: nakajima design (hideki nakajima, tetsuro furutani)
translation: christopher stephens
local coordinator: harumi muto
organizer: japan foundation
with special assistance from tokyo metropolitan government

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