rem koolhaas project japan: metabolism talks
rem koolhaas   project japan: metabolism talks
nov 04, 2011

rem koolhaas project japan: metabolism talks

‘metabolism – the city of the future’ exhibition poster

in tokyo, japan, the mori art museum recently hosted a special talk event between dutch architect and pritzker prize laureate rem koolhaas of OMA and the museum director nanjo fumio. coinciding with the ongoing exhibition ‘metabolism, the city of the future: dreams and visions of reconstruction in postwar and present-day japan’, the topic of discussion addressed the importance and presence of the metabolists within the post world war climate. these individuals were catalysts to the metabolism movement which was initiated by visionary japanese architects including kurokawa kisho and kikutake kiyonori. this group which emerged at the time supported rapid economic growth, population increases and expansions of cities. koolhaas’ new publication ‘project japan: metabolism talks’, released on october 28th, 2011, analyzes the importance of these individuals through a lens of the architectural scene of today.

faced with difficult decisions in regards to the nation’s post-disaster reconstruction efforts, rem referenced specific works by kurokawa including the ‘nakagin capsule tower building’, a residential and office tower comprised of modular units located in tokyo. built in 1972, the structure demonstrates the success and longevity of these construction methods as it is still in use today without the replacement of any capsules.

rem koolhaas   project japan: metabolism talks rem koolhaas image courtesy of biennale di venezia

during the event, rem koolhaas stated:

‘if I look at the global situation now, it’s my personal conviction that the level of architecture in japan is higher than in rest of the world. and if you were to think why that is so, the answer is obviously because there has been the presence of a group of architects that were exceptionally gifted, and who also worked together as a group. if you look at the current landscape of architecture around the world, you see a number of individuals, and those individuals almost never talk to each other. in fact, they’re constantly competing with each other and there is not even a remote sense of an architectural community.

moreover, it is very clear that the initiative in culture is now switching from the west to asia. and for that reason, I think it’s very interesting to look at how the metabolists, who actively participated in the ending of the western hegemony of architecture, succeeded in establishing their position.’

rem koolhaas   project japan: metabolism talks nakagin capsule tower building (1972) by kurokawa kisho on display at the mori art museum image © watanabe osamu

‘when you start a movement, it’s like a crime: you have to have a motive. and the more compelling the motive, the more successful the crime or the movement. so I think that it was a brilliant choice by the metabolists to take the metaphor of metabolism as the motive, because it gives the sense of a biological inevitability.

if you look at the work of kurokawa for instance, he seems to read metabolism not as a linear push for ever bigger and larger projects, but more as an ability to transform at the biological level. I think that he put forward many ideas that are very subtle in terms of how nature could be used or how architecture could be sustainable, ideas which are major issues in architecture now.

but more to the point, while the half of the world consisting of developed countries is in a process of stagnation, the other half continues to grow incredibly quickly. and in that sense, I’d say that there’s still an urgent necessity today to think about how to not only accommodate growth, but to channel it in a way that is productive. from this point of view too, I believe looking at a movement like metabolism is very important.’ – rem koolhaas

designboom will publish a few articles on the exhibition. please stay tuned.

rem koolhaas   project japan: metabolism talks exhibit installation

image © watanabe osamu

rem koolhaas   project japan: metabolism talks model of golgi structure (high density city)1967/2011 by maki fumihiko within the exhibition image © watanabe osamu

rem koolhaas   project japan: metabolism talks master plan and master design of trunk facilities 2011 by tange kenzo + nishiyama uzo within the exhibition image © watanabe osamu

rem koolhaas   project japan: metabolism talks ‘project japan: metabolism talks…’ by rem koolhaas + hans ulrich obrist

  • Awh the model is just great!! The colour used are just great! says:
  • shouldn’t designboom have taken the time to mention the curatorial team (a whole university lab in tokyo) behind this exhibition, images of which are used to illustrate a post on koolhaas even though he has nothing to do with it?

    YuKi says:
  • yuki,
    we actually visited the show yesterday. are you part of the university lab?
    congratulations – great study and documentation.
    lauren used images of the exhibition to illustrate the metabolism topic koolhaas’ talk
    (he mentioned the work of kurokawa etc. ).
    she has not credited the curatorial team here, because we will publish a set of articles
    on the exhibition itself and of course these will bear all credits.
    this short article just focuses on koolhaas’ statements.

    birgit/designboom says:

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