Kikutake Kiyonori, Hotel Tokoen, 1964, Tottori, Japan, Photo: Shinkenchiku-sha.

Tange Kenzo, Hiroshima Peace Center, 1955, Hiroshima, Japan, Photo: Ishimoto Yasuhiro.

'Metabolism,' Tracing the Staying Power of a Manifesto over 50 Years

Festival Plaza, Expo'70, 1970, Osaka, Photo: Shinkenchiku-sha.

Kikutake Kiyonori, ECO POLIS, early 1990s.

Tange Kenzo, Yamanashi Culture Hall, 1966, Yamanashi, Japan, Photo: Shinkenchiku-sha.

Kikutake Kiyonori, Miyakonojo Civic Center, 1966, Miyazaki, Japan, Photo: Oyama Takashi.

Kikutake Kiyonori, Marine City 1963.



Mori Art Museum
53F Roppongi Hills
Mori Tower
6-10-1 Roppongi
Metabolism, the City of the Future
Dreams and Visions of Reconstruction in Postwar and Present-Day Japan

September 17, 2011-January 15, 2012

First presented as a manifesto in the 1960s in Japan, "Metabolism" is a theory of architecture contending that "buildings and cities should be designed and developed in the same continuous way that the material substance of a natural organism is produced." From the time of Japan's postwar redevelopment to its period of rapid economic growth, the theory gave birth to grand visions of future cities, encouraged the realization of much experimental architecture, and also provided the foundation on which many of Japan's contemporary world-renowned architects and designers could build their careers. It is the most widely known modern architecture theory to have emerged from Japan.

This exhibition is the first ever to pose the question of what significance Metabolism holds today. It draws on various documents and models to explore the thoughts and work of Tange Kenzo, which set the scene for the emergence of Metabolism, and the activities of the Metabolist architects and others during the 1960s up until Osaka's Expo '70, which in many ways was a showcase for the theory. It also represents an important opportunity to think about the necessity of archiving and preserving distinguished historical documents and records related to the movement.

Metabolism, which sprang up in the 1960s, remains the most widely known modern architecture movement to have emerged from Japan. Representative plans include a floating island city that crosses Tokyo Bay, and a city of tall buildings connected by corridors suspended in the sky.

The Metabolism movement was developed during the period of reconstruction in which war-torn Japan worked to move toward its period of rapid economic growth in the wake of World War II. The architects involved engaged in heated debates over the ideal city, and planned a great deal of experimental architecture and cities based on ideas of lifestyles and communities for a new era.mPrecisely as Japan is confronting great difficulties today, Metabolism is packed with valuable hints for architectural and urban development. This is the first exhibition in the world to provide such a comprehensive overview of the movement, and it offers the opportunity to reevaluate the architecture and cities of the future.

Clarification of “Metabolism,” an architecture movement that emerged from Japan. This exhibition is the first in the world to give the full picture of the ideas and the movement of Metabolism, giving a comprehensive elucidation introducing the works of representative Japanese architects and designers, including Tange Kenzo, who greatly influenced the ideas of Metabolism, and others central to the movement such as Kurokawa Kisho, Kikutake Kiyonori, Maki Fumihiko, Isozaki Arata, Ekuan Kenji, and Awazu Kiyoshi.

Reconstruction plans made by Metabolism architects a half century ago. Particularly now, some fifty years on, the exhibition introduces for reflection and reappraisal the reconstruction projects created through Metabolism, including Tange Kenzo’s Hiroshima Peace Center, famous as a postwar reconstruction masterpiece leading to the preservation of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Kurokawa Kisho’s Agricultural City Plan, proposed as a disaster area reconstruction plan in the wake of Typhoon Vera, and the Master Plan for Reconstruction of Skopie City Center (Macedonia) earthquake disaster reconstruction plan based on Tange Kenzo’s plan and implemented abroad by Isozaki Arata and other architects.

Never-before-seen archive film footage, rare models and materials Comprising 500 or more exhibits, consisting of architectural models and drawings, sketches, photos, and archival films, some 80 projects are exhibited. Owned by architects and other related people rather than museums, many of these works are rare materials seldom viewed by the public and exhibited for the first time in Japan.

Featuring the actual pioneer capsule architecture. The architects of Metabolism collected residential functions in capsules, and in attaching and removing them, tried to design an architecture that meets the needs of the day by updating itself. One of the few architectural works that actually incorporates these ideas is the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building. These masterpiece capsule residences made the name Kurokawa Kisho known throughout the world, and one of them is refurbished and showcased.The city of the future envisioned by the architects of Metabolism reproduced as cg images Produced especially for this exhibition, CG images reproduce about six future city plans that could only be expressed in drawings and models in the 1960s, including A Plan for Tokyo 1960 by Tange Kenzo and others — which is known for its revolutionary ideas for the design of a new Tokyo on Tokyo Bay — are exhibited.

Art, design, and music from the same period as the City of the Future/Osaka Expo ‘70. Osaka Expo ’70 brought into focus the entire wisdom of the architects of Metabolism, and this wisdom has been handed down even to the present day. Along with introducing the Osaka Expo ’70 as the City of the Future from an urban/architectural perspective, the art, design, and music of the same period is showcased — beginning with Isozaki Arata, who produced the environment of the Festival Plaza, as well as Yamaguchi Katsuhiro, Ichiyanagi Toshi, Tomatsu Shomei, and Awazu Kiyoshi.

Announcing the Metabolism Lounge. The Metabolism Lounge is a place in the exhibition for contemplating different aspects of future urban design through exhibitions of the latest research data and urban projects including the latest emergency disaster relief capsules and environmental symbiosis, books on Metabolism, archive films of past lectures, and more.

At the World Design Conference of 1960, the Metabolism group — formed by architecture critic Kawazoe Noboru, architects Otaka Masato, Maki Fumihiko, Kikutake Kiyonori and Kurokawa Kisho, designers Awazu Kiyoshi, Ekuan Kenji, and others who had come under the influence of the architect Tange Kenzo — presented a manifesto entitled, Metabolism 1960: Proposals for a New Urbanism. The movement went on to involve numerous other architects such as Isozaki Arata and Otani Sachio throughout Japan’s period of rapid economic growth, and ultimately came to define this key moment in the country’s modern architectural history. Fifty years on, there is now increasing momentum for a reappraisal of the Metabolists’ grand visions of future cities, as an important pioneering example in assessing today’s cities.

This is the first exhibition to ever provide such a comprehensive overview of Metabolism. It highlights not only leading architectural and urban projects but also Japan’s postwar reconstruction urban planning represented by Hiroshima Peace Center which led to Metabolism. Art and design from that period are also introduced, as well as Osaka Expo ’70 — which in many ways was the culmination of the movement – and later international projects. The exhibition represents an important opportunity to collect and archive valuable architectural documents and records, as many have been lost in recent years. The 500 or more exhibits from about 80 projects include never-before-seen models, sketches, and plans owned by architects and other related people, archive film footage rarely viewed by the public, and CG images of future cities produced for this exhibition.

Section 1: Birth of Metabolism Metabolism projects show the strong influence of Tange Kenzo, who always incorporated his visions of the city even in simple architecture. This section traces the changes in Japan’s wartime and postwar urban design, focusing on Tange’s Hiroshima projects as the beginning of postwar architectural and urban design, and on the visions of future cities given in the manifesto •Metabolism 1960: Proposals for a New Urbanism•.

Section 2: Era of Metabolism Metabolism saw not just the incomplete conceptualization of future cities but also the realization of numerous experimental buildings. This section introduces wide range of activities from urban concepts to public buildings and housing, including: A Plan for Tokyo, 1960 by Tange Kenzo, Kurokawa Kisho, Isozaki Arata, and others, known for its revolutionary ideas for the design of a new Tokyo on Tokyo Bay; the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building by Kurokawa Kisho, which proposed a futuristic lifestyle of living in capsules that came to epitomize the Metabolism movement; and the South Pole Showa Base by Asada Takashi and others, the origin of prefab housing, and an attempt to industrialize architecture and develop self-building.

Section 3: From Space to Environment The Japan World Exposition held in 1970 — commonly known as Osaka Expo ’70 — was a turning point in Japan’s transition to a consumer and information society. Prior to the Expo, interaction was stimulated among different fields of art, centered on the concept of “environment.” This section introduces Osaka Expo ’70 — centering on the Great Roof Building and the Festival Plaza — from an urban and architectural perspective, featuring activities that transcended the media of the day, such as the prime example found in the works of Yamaguchi Katsuhiro, Ichiyanagi Toshi, Tomatsu Shomei, Awazu Kiyoshi and others, showcased at “From Space to Environment” in 1966. Expo ’70 brought into focus the entire wisdom of the Metabolism movement and is still thought of today as the epitome of futuristic cities.

Section 4: Global Metabolism Tange Kenzo and architects under his influence extended their appeal overseas after Expo ’70. Although most of their plans remain uncompleted, there is considered to be a need to review and reappraise them as the precursors to the current rapid development of Asian cities. This section showcases large, city scale projects, such as Tange’s Master Plan for Reconstruction of Skopje City Center following the earthquake in the Macedonian capital, and Maki Fumihiko’s Republic Polytechnic Singaporean university campus plans.

Maki Fumihiko, Republic Polytechnic, 2007, Singapore, © Maki and Associates.

Fumihiko Maki, Golgi Structure, 1967. Digital photograph of model. Courtesy of Maki and Associates.

An Archiscientific View of the City as a Living, Breathing Organism

Dennis Crompton, Computer City Project – Axonometric, 1964. Photoprint from ink drawing with added color film, 40-1/8 x 28-3/8”. Courtesy of Archigram Archives.

Peter Cook, Plug-in City Study – Overhead view, 1964. Print off ink on tracing drawing with added color, 40 1/8 x 28 3/8”. Courtesy of Archigram Archives.

Warren Chalk and David Greene, Electronic Tomato – Collage, 1969. Ink, tape, newsprint and felt-tip pen, 28-3/8 x 20-½“. Courtesy of Archigram Archives.


Mildred Lane Kemper
Art Museum
Washington University
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis
Metabolic City
September 18-January 4, 2010

Amidst the cultural and political ferment of the 1960s, avant-garde artists and architects began embracing biological and scientific models as well as the potentials of emerging technologies to explore radical new directions in urban design, developing projects that were at once fanciful, complex and conceptually serious.

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum presents Metabolic City, an exhibition surveying work by the British collective Archigram; the Japanese Metabolists (whose members include Fumihiko Maki, architect of the Kemper Art Museum); and the Dutch painter Constant Nieuwenhuys, an early member of the Situationist International.

Curated and designed by Heather Woofter, assistant professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Metabolic City will feature approximately 70 drawings, plans, models and conceptual projects, including rarely seen materials drawn from private archives and a sampling of work by influential predecessors.

Organized thematically, the exhibition explores theoretical and conceptual overlaps between these groups, all of which came to view the city as a kind of living organism, in which civil infrastructure forms the basis for social interaction and individual liberty. At the same time, though they articulated their views in explicitly political terms, each pioneered distinctive — and remarkably prescient — means of architectural representation, often employing techniques and processes that are only now entering mainstream practice.

Networks of urban circulation were a major area of focus. Mechanical systems, roadways, pedestrian passages and other built environments frequently were conceived in relation to electronics, media and other immaterial connections. Archigram's Computer City (1964), for instance, tracks the infrastructures that allow its futuristic Plug-In City (1962-64) to operate. Maki's Golgi Structures (1968) — named for Nobel Prize-winner Camillo Golgli, who developed techniques for visualizing nerve cell bodies — alternate dense urban areas with unstructured open spaces. Encasing the latter are light-absorbing cells that facilitate communication, energy distribution and mechanical systems.

These figures also shared a belief that adaptable habitats could foster unprecedented levels of freedom and mobility. Archigram's Walking City (1964) consists of mammoth "pods," or cities built as ship-like vessels, capable of traversing the earth. Nieuwenhuys' •New Babylon North• (1960) suggests a sprawling serpentine structure that could be shaped and reshaped by inhabitants, their labors supported by factories hidden below ground. Wall City (1960), by the Metabolist Kisho Kurokawa, envisions a series of movable plug-in units for living and working, the increased efficiency of which would shorten the workweek and encourage leisure travel.

Growth patterns and life cycles are a part of all living systems, an observation that deeply influenced Kurokawa's Metamorphosis (1965), which employs techniques derived from biological modeling to represent the transformation of urban spaces. Growth patterns of a media-based variety inform Archigram's utopian Instant City (1960), in which large airships descend onto population centers to install infrastructure supporting community events, ranging from circuses to political rallies. As the airships move on to other locations, those infrastructural networks remain behind.

Underlying many projects was a hopeful yet critical view of new engineering technologies. Though this generation of artists and architects witnessed the effects of World War II and the mass destruction made possible by technological inventions, the emerging space age nevertheless sparked a sense of optimism and potential. For his Marine City (1961), the Metabolist Kiyonori Kikutake collaborated with marine engineers to detail entire metropolises constructed out at sea. Comprised of multiple towers connected in a ring, these structures would submerge beneath the waves during inclement weather and return safely to the surface as waters grew calm.

Peter Cook, Instant City – Airship M3, 1968. Collage of photographs and newsprint, overdrawn, 40 1/8 x 28 3/8”. Courtesy of Archigram Archives.