Architectural Metabolism: 1960 Tokyo Japan World Conference in Design - Research Paper

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1916 Words
Date:  2023-01-11


Architectural metabolism was first introduced into the architectural work in Tokyo Japan World Conference in design. It took place in the year 1960 under the leadership of Kenzo Tange among other architects. The metabolism architects included Fumihiko Maki, Kisho Kurokawa, and Kiyonori Kikutake. In 1960 the world population was growing at a significantly high rate, which put pressure on architects around the world to create mega-structures in a bid to cater to the needs of the growing housing sector. It is in this regard that a group of Japanese architects in the early 1960s came up with the idea of creating a unique housing structural system. The new structure to be developed would be flexible to allow parts of the building materials to be added or removed according to the needs of the people in the housing structural designs. The architects initiated the new movement and named it architectural metabolism as it defined the metabolizing housing structures designs.

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Metabolism Architecture Projects

After the initiation of the first Japanese architectural metabolism design by the renowned Kenzo Tange in Tokyo and other architects and their eventual proposal for new urbanism, another vital event followed. The event referred to as the Osaka World fair that took place in 1970, in this event other metabolists exhibited their prospective design work in a theoretical illustration. The metabolists believed in their approach and that it would help solve the world's housing problems at the time and in the future. These designs covered a wide range in the housing sector including the regional planning and industrial planning as most countries were focused on developing their economies which included the housing sector. The metabolists' theory was adopted by a significant number of architects and various participated in the project by creating their own work in line with the theory. Most of the famous work in the theory included the floating city in the sea, Kiyonari Kikutake's Marine City, tower city, the walled city, ocean city and agricultural city among others.

One of the most expressive projects in the metabolism theory is the work of the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo (1972). It was designed by Kisho Kurokawa and the building is made of 13 floors with about 140 individual flats, each building in a pre-formed capsule. The project incorporated the use of capsules as a technique that would allow the removal or addition of the capsule units in the future redesign of the building. The capsules were prefabricated and installed with the necessary services such as furniture that would be replaceable as per the needs of the people. Another project included the Yamanashi Press and Radio Center in Kofu. They were designed by Kenzo Tange between the year 1961 and 1967. The building was made up of solid service towers such as the elevators and staircases around which horizontal slabs would be adjusted, clipped or removed as per the needs of the people. Habitat project that was carried out in 1967 at Montreal by Moshe Safdie is among stunning pre-fabricated complex that appeared for the first time in the 1967 World Exposition in Montreal. The project's main idea was to allow maximum exposition of the housing units to the sunlight and provide a clear view of nature. It was designed by the random arrangement of the cellular residential units.

Why Metabolism Architecture Did Not Really Work

The metabolism architecture did rise and fall in a span of one decade apart. Its initial projects that date back to 1960 and marked its theoretical genesis and formulation. Ten years after the initialization of the theories, the projects were put into practice in Osaka Japan. The implementation showed the significance of the metabolism theories and the movement at large. A late developed project Nakagin represented the last chance for the implementation of the project as it did not materialize as projected in its initial design. The theoretical part of the design described a well-calculated structure that involved a natural and organic shape and form which did not come out clearly in the practical implementation. The architecture decided to merge all the decisions and ideas which reduced the initial design to a smaller structure than the one that was projected in the theory. This marked the end of the metabolism architectural work as the designers were unable to replicate their theoretical work in the actual project.

Despite the presentation of the capsule design project as a house of the future, it incorporated the traditional cultural aspects of the Japanese people. The area of the house replicated the area of the traditional tea ceremony room, and the shape and size of the window were the interpretation of the enlightenment window from Kyoto's Genkoan Temple. The furniture in the house was developed using less technologically demanding lacquered pinewood instead of the slight avant-garde and innovative materials in the projections. The media portrayed the Nakagin Capsule Tower as the future of housing indicating the stalled progress of the metabolism architecture. The building was the tallest in the block as it was visible from afar, and provided a theoretical ability of the building to configure to an accelerating world in a post-industrial society. The tower presented itself to the nearby residents like a machine from the future with its avant-grade aesthetic.

Before the completion of the Nakagin Tower, it had run out of time for its projected construction period and technology had overtaken it. It became the first and last architecture of its kind that never achieved its complete goals as the project stalled. Forty years later, and the structure of the building got lost in the everyday routine of society. It was left where its construction process stuck, looking old with decaying materials and obscured in the shadow of the latest skyscrapers. Today, the Nakagin is just but a reminder of the path that was never followed. The Nakagin Tower is a sculpture made of concrete units that are suspended by metallic beams and cables. It is made of two vertical access cores with 68 and 64 capsules respectively. Its ground floor is made of the atrium and a store for convenience, and the second floor was a traditional office complex. From the second floor, positioned at the stairs, they reveal the doors of the 132 units. The lifts which are subject to regular inspection work perfectly and every day an employee is tasked to clean the stairs and the common areas with a cleaner.

The Nakagin building is decomposing as the time fades away, indicated by the fading night lights revealing the reality that its fate is doomed. Currently, the building is not maintained and the sign of the falling debris of the building materials led the authorities to cover it with protection nets. The design of the asbestos layers to have a 3 cm thickness prohibits the use of a ventilation system thus making the layer almost useless as the capsules suffer huge temperature variations. The residents of the structure appreciate the formatted capsules in various ways. The original capsules were made of Japanese paper which no longer exists as the people have used them for their various needs in ventilation and in the creation of some privacy in the building. The exterior view shows the attachments of materials on its sides in a bid to create a natural light vision through into the building. More than a third of the building's air conditioners are now placed outside and serve as decorating units as they are no longer operational.

The individual capsules are devoid of hot water supply as the residents have to use water heaters or use of communal showers in the ground floor. The residents opt to use the entrance shower as the building's pipes are degraded and the rooted pipes lead to water leakages in the building. Due to the leaking water, most capsules have become unstable rotting from the inner cores. Despite the replacements of a few pipes to maintain the water supply to the building, it seems to deteriorate after every repair as not all fractures are replaced. Emergency exit rooms were converted into smoking zones with ashtrays and chairs. The third floor of the building is an abandoned platform that is left dirty with water and rotten capsule remnants. Some rooms lack locks, as the rotten capsules are disposed of outside due to the danger they pose for the people. Despite the dying physical features of the Nakagin, tourists love the place, as they are seen from time to time visiting to appreciate the future that never occurred. The architectural metabolism last structure represented by the rotting Nakagin building did not work and its end arrived a decade after its implementation process began. In this regard, the metabolism architectural work was a failure despite its planned and well laid out designs by various architects.

Future of Metabolism in Relation to Space Station Development

The provision of new platforms for more research work in the space promotes the expected metabolism architectural work that will catapult the scientific work in space. This is due to the increasing demand of research from the ISS National Lab. The MVP replicates the future advancement that the human fraternity expects to have control of the gravity that will enable them to pursue their work despite the challenging natural gravitational forces. The MVP is an environmentally controlled facility that provides artificial gravity of about 0.1 g to 2 g in the free fall environment of the flow of the earth's orbit. The MVP allows enables scientists to carry out most of their life science projects in space. The MVP is among many Techshot facilities created to help the future advancements of space research work. Such tools onboard in the ISS include Bone Densitometer an instrument that enables the measurements of in-orbit rodent bones, muscles, and other tissues. The Analytical Containment Transfer Tool which enables the transfer of experimental hardware to tools for analysis, this tool is vital in the space experiments and its invention is critical for future space projects. Advanced Space Experiment Processor which is a multipurpose biotechnology platform with three different thermal zones, this instrument will be vital in the future space exploration projects as it has the capacity to measure three thermal conditions at ago. The space astronauts are working on several new facilities including a space-based 3D BioFabrication Facility that seeks to print the bio-data of the human tissues and organs in space for use back on Earth. This is a vital development in the regeneration medicine among many others that are to come in the future space exploration projects.


Metabolists based their new architectural theory on the metaphorical relationship between the metabolism of the human body and the development of the architecture. Metabolism can be defined by the summation of both chemical and physical body processes that take place in the food breakdown chain. These processes take place for a crucial function in the body, which is to contribute to the body cells growth and the normal functioning of the body. it is in this regard that the metabolists established their design theories in a bid to ensure the architectural work evolved with time and developed into better structures as the human needs change with time. The metabolism movement consisted of various features including large scale building structures that were capable of growing organically in different directions. The features of adaptable plug-in mega structures expressing the technological building developments, and the ability of the structures to adapt to future changes. In this regard, metabolism architecture can be indeed a critical tool in the future development of building structures that can...

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Architectural Metabolism: 1960 Tokyo Japan World Conference in Design - Research Paper. (2023, Jan 11). Retrieved from

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