Posts tagged with "Metabolism":

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South Brooklyn's Metabolist-inspired green tower rejected over parking concerns

A 14-story, sustainable, mixed-use tower complete with a senior care facility that's situated just blocks away from a subway station in the low-density, single-family home neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, sounds like a smart, responsible idea. However, community board opposition may shutter that dream due to—of all things—a lack of parking. Last week, Community Board 15 voted unanimously against the development at 1508 Avenue Z created by Citiscape Consulting, citing concerns about parking space and proximity to the elevated subway tracks.  What's more interesting about this proposed project is its design. The tower features a patterned hexagonal facade and exterior greenery that together evoke the Metabolism movement of post-war Japan. Metabolist architects like Fumihiko Maki and Kishō Kurokawa approached constructing high-density urbanism through the forms and systems of living organisms and cells. The design of 1508 Avenue Z  takes their creed quite literally, featuring walls of CO2-capturing plants and pluming that utilizes stormwater stored on the rooftop. The Brooklyn Eagle reported that property owner SB1 Holdings LLC had requested for zoning waivers for the building’s proposed height, floor area, and parking, but were not met favorably from locals. One board member called it “the most ridiculous project I’ve ever heard for this area in my entire life. Period.” A former board member said it was "totally objectionable that you want to put residents with memory problems up against a subway station." Despite the objections, the proposed building wouldn't be unprecedented in the area. Just last year, a 30-story tower at 1 Brooklyn Bay opened a block away from the site and is currently under debate.  The community board's vote hasn't put the nail-in-the-coffin for the project just yet. The building could still get a green light from the Board of Standards and Appeals after further consideration and clarifications from the developers. Lawyers for SB1 Holdings told the Brooklyn Eagle that the already-available street parking spots should relieve the developer from providing the necessary 30 parking spots. The developers will also have to appeal to the city for permission to park ambulances in front of the building, which is currently a bus stop. 
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Fate of Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower still up in the air

After years of back and forth, Tokyo’s iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower may face demolition after all, according to Citylab. The 13-story building, which has stood in the Shinbashi neighborhood since 1972, is a distinct relic of the Metabolist movement that dominated architectural discourse in post-World War II Japan. Maintenance issues have plagued the site for over a decade, with certain stakeholders now reiterating that demolition might be the most economical option.

Many architectural historians consider the Nakagin Capsule Tower to be one of the best surviving examples of Metabolism, a movement that explored methods of large-scale reconstruction for Japan’s war-ravaged cities. Between the 1950s and 1970s, Metabolists like Pritzker Prize winners Fumihiko Maki and Kenzo Tange emphasized the need for Japanese architects to emulate organic systems in their designs for urban megastructures, highlighting how metabolisms in complex organisms work to maintain living cells.

Kishō Kurokawa, a prominent voice in Japan’s post-war cultural resurgence and the author of the 1977 book Metabolism in Architecture, designed the Nakagin Capsule Tower at the request of the Nakagin real-estate company’s president, Torizo Watanabe. The structure is an agglomeration of 140 prefabricated “capsules” affixed in varying orientations to two concrete cores. Each unit is one hundred square feet in area and has a single porthole window. The highly formulaic design enabled construction crews to assemble the entire structure in only 30 days, resulting in a tower that hosted both commercial offices and private residential space. Kurokawa also intended for the capsules to be removed and replaced as needed. Ironically, the ability of capsule occupants to refurbish or replace their individual units was supposed to preclude any sort of large-scale demolition of the building. Perhaps the current state of affairs in Shinbashi is a reflection of the model’s shortfalls.

Over the years, not a single one of the 140 capsules have been removed or replaced. Many are still in use as apartments or offices, but some have been repurposed as storage compartments or outright abandoned. Certain owners have made an effort to preserve or restore their capsules, but many have fallen into visible disrepair. In 2007, the tower’s management company announced that asbestos had been found in many of the units and cleared the entire building for demolition. Financial difficulties at the construction company that was tapped to lead the lot’s redevelopment stalled the project, and the debate over whether to tear down the Nakagin Capsule Tower has remained at a standstill ever since.

By 2018, Nakagin Integration, Inc. had become frustrated with high maintenance costs and sold the land under the building, which currently operates as a condominium, to a real-estate company. In a move permitted under Japanese law, the new land-owner then prohibited any new sales in the tower and considered the site’s potential for redevelopment. As Jiji Press reported last month, though, an unnamed foreign buyer has expressed interest in purchasing the land and preserving the tower.

While maintaining the Nakagin Capsule Tower has grown into too great a burden for some managers and unit owners, the movement to preserve the building has also amassed support. Activists and organizers formed the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building Conservation and Regeneration Project to protect the building from developers in bustling Shinbashi. One member, Tatsuyuki Maeda, now owns 15 units in the building and hopes his investment in the property will help tip the scales in favor of preservationists.

Regardless of one’s standpoint on the importance of architectural preservation, the Nakagin Capsule Tower’s status as a rare built example of Metabolist architecture is indisputable. Investors will ultimately decide whether this legacy is worth defending, but preservationists are slowly accruing more of a stake in the building.

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Metabolist-inspired tower with hexagonal facade coming to south Brooklyn

New York YIMBY has gotten its hands on a batch of first-look renderings of a futuristic tower set to touch down in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and it looks like the building will eschew glass for grass. From the renderings of 1508 Avenue Z, a forthcoming 16-story long-term care home, it looks like architects Citiscape Consulting will wrap their C-shaped building with a dynamic, hexagonal facade. Working from a material palette of white concrete, living green wall, vertical and diagonal louvers, and what appears to be timber, the hexagons will compose a unique pattern as they snake around the building’s curves. Many of the hexagons contain a bit of each material, using tripartite combinations with vegetation at the enclosure’s top. The use of greenery in the facade and at the tower’s top is reportedly in reference to the Japanese Metabolist movement that arose after World War II. The movement, of which the Nakagin Capsule Tower is one of the most famous examples, was an attempt to bridge the gap between organic growth and forms, and the built environment. Biological rhythms, prefabrication, and the vernacular architecture of Japan were used as starting points to design buildings throughout that period. The louvered portions will act as sun shades for the residents within and extend past the parapets to lend the outdoor roof deck shade and privacy. It appears that the roof of the 188-foot-tall building will be heavily forested, and Citiscape will be integrating a rainwater capture system so that the tower can use recycled greywater throughout. YIMBY reports that the nearly 50,000-square-foot tower will be largely residential, with 3,950 feet carved out for ground floor retail, 42,620 square feet has been set aside for 78 residential units, and the remaining 3,130 square feet going towards a medical facility. SB1 Holdings LLC and property owner Emil Blank are developing the lot. No construction cost or estimated date of completion have been released yet.
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Hans-Ulrich Obrist on architecture, art, and Metabolism

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext—a multidisciplinary platform for design promoted by Actar Publishers—to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’s “First look at Jenny Sabin Studio’s immersive MoMA/PS1 installation.” The article below was authored by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, an art curator, critic, and historian of art.
My interest in architecture, from the perspective of my role as a curator of art, stems from the fact that architecture is the pre-eminent site for the production of reality, as it is uniquely oriented the toward the future, but precisely as a continual negotiation, or as a continually articulated struggle between the present, the past, and the future. This is what I look for, also, in the art that interests me the most; namely, the recognition, following Duchamp, that art is ultimately a game in which the only constant is change itself. Implicit in Duchamp is a vision of history under perennial negotiation; historical truth as forever in situ. My interest in architecture stems especially from the work of English architect Cedric Price, who, beginning in the 1960s, advanced an evolutional model of building premised upon flexibility, change, and renewal. Although many of his concepts never materialized outside the studio, Price is receiving a renaissance in architecture today and I am particularly indebted to his progressive thinking. Price’s vision was to do with the unpredictability of architecture, of its forms and uses, and I am especially interested in pushing at the edges of what is expected of the exhibition-form; and in conceiving unusual sites, formats, and temporalities for exhibitions. Price’s unrealised Fun Palace, 1964, adjusted to its users’ ever-changing needs: "It will probably look like nothing on earth from the outside," it was said. "The kit of service towers, lifting gantries and building components exists solely to produce the kind of interior environments that are fitting and necessary to whatever is going on." The Potteries Thinkbelt, 1966, proposed the construction of a school in England’s North Staffordshire region across a series of railway tracks: the university was rearticulated as a set of interchangeable mobile units which could be attached and detached as necessary. My own practice draws considerably upon Cedric Price’s future of dynamism and his disregard for permanence—his structures often had shelf-lives and once their utility expired, he urged their destruction. Both art and architecture today must be adequate to the most pressing needs of our time, and in particular to the demands of ecology: both sustainability and adaptability; preservation and impermanence. This is why I have tried, wherever possible, to avoid the top-down blockbuster model of curating, and have been more interested in exploring other means to produce reality through exhibitions, delegating decisions and possibilities to artists. Since its inception in 1993, for example, Do It has traveled to over 40 international venues and offers a model of art and exhibition making as the following-through of a variable set of instructions. Perhaps the pre-eminent challenge encompassing this project concerned how to perpetuate a show that no big museum wanted to touch: because it wasn’t the "real" thing—because it was about instructions and interpretations, not concrete "works"—it never hit the primary institutional radar. By consequence, Do It was a huge risk and it perpetuated only through an amazing grassroots mechanism that ricocheted across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and so on. From an economic perspective, the manner in which Do It produced its own circuit, a self-sustaining distribution model, is exemplary and I consider this to be among my proudest achievements. So we come to Metabolism, which, for me, is one of the most fascinating developments in postwar architecture, since it explores all of these important aspects of adaptability, change, and renewal that I see as being especially important in the art context. To some degree, the moment of Metabolist architecture in Japan is inseparable from the tremendous forces of change and renewal affecting that country during the postwar period—the Japanese economic miracle that propelled the country into the premier league of developed nations and only began to stall in the 1990s. This emergence into the "big league" required a distinctively Japanese Modernism, and this is the great achievement of the Metabolists in my view. As one of the movement’s founders, Takashi Asada, clearly stated in regard to the relation between Metabolism and Japan’s phenomenal economic dynamism after the war:
… Those who signed their names on my copy of Metabolism 1960, Ekuan and I as chairman are the eight members of the group… For six years I have encouraged them to realize their proposals in the book so as to examine their validity. In my view, the flexibility that inherently exists in our society and the rapid economic growth in recent years should allow for their proposals to be realized.
With regard to Japan’s economic growth, there is a deep optimism inherent in much of the architecture, an optimism appropriately framed by the decade of the 1960s, marked by the signing of Metabolism 1960 and the important Expo 1970 in Osaka. This optimism is, perhaps, most obviously apparent in Kiyonori Kikutake’s Marine City proposal of 1958, which has all the formal revolutionary zeal of Corbusier, and envisions an entirely new mode of life appropriate to the modern age. But it is also there in some of the more modest examples of Metabolist work, which are, of course, the few key examples that have been realized and given to us for posterity. So, Kisho Kurokawa’s ever-controversial Nakagin Capsule Tower in Shimbashi, Tokyo, is a powerful homage to the dynamism of the Japanese capital city and economic powerhouse: a residential building comprising two interconnected concrete towers, intended as distinctively Japanese, but also somewhat Corbusian, "machines for living" for the capital’s salarymen, featuring as standard all the amenities of modern life amid what Ernest Mandel once characterized as the "third industrial revolution" of mass consumption and rising living standards in the advanced economies. But it combines this with that quintessential Western imaginary of contemporary Japanese living: the capsule, which are here able to be reconfigured and combined in different ways according to individual need. Kurokawa’s Capsule Tower is thereby simultaneously expressive of widespread societal change then afoot, as well as the need for individual maneuverability within this larger systemic whole. Expo 70 was billed as a celebration of "Progress and Harmony for Mankind," and is perhaps the summation of the optimistic Japanese orientation toward the future—a unique historical moment that has many lessons for us today. It stands in the Japanese collective memory as a testament to the country’s incredible rate of economic development and rapid recovery during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and is today marked by the Expo Commemorative Park in Osaka. It is indeed fitting that this pivotal event was held in Osaka, which, especially during that period, was of course, the beating heart of Japanese industrialism. Expo 70 in fact marked a turning point, as the culminating point of the steadily accelerating growth of the Japanese economy in the twenty-five years following the end of the war, and the 1970s, during which the country’s great fortune would only further accelerate amid the economic crises of the West that were prompted, not least, by the Oil Crisis of 1973. Change and renewal, as the most important elements of what I understand by the "production of reality," are directly indexed in Metabolist work. Impermanence is a key facet of Kisho Kurokawa’s practice, for instance, and it may not be too much of a stretch to suggest that the idea of unceasing change is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. It goes back to the most profound teachings of the Buddha, who argued that attachment to the idea of a permanent self, a permanent ego, in this world of change is the cause of suffering and the main obstacle to liberation. Liberation for Buddha, and for Buddhism generally, means to accept the implacability of change. The enormous changes that Japan as a nation had to face in the immediate aftermath of the war were, I think, fundamental to the visions of renewal and change that we find in Metabolism. Kurokawa, in particular, noted that, apart from Kyoto and Kanazawa, the majority of Japanese cities of any size were decimated during World War II. Whereas, in the West, when a city like London or Dresden was destroyed, there was brick and stone and rubble remaining as evidence of what had been, and out of which new ideas could grow. But Japan’s cities, on the other hand, appeared as blank slates after the dust had settled. Kurokawa noted that Japan’s cities were predominantly built of wood and other natural, perishable materials, and so when they were bombed, they simply turned to cinder. The destruction of both Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto during several battles of the Warring States period in the 15th and 16th centuries also made deep impression on Kurokawa, while into this mix of influences on Metabolist notions of change and adaptability can be added the obvious fact that Japan’s cities are virtually annually struck by natural disasters of various kinds: earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and volcanic eruptions. This ongoing destruction and reconstruction of buildings in Japan has meant that the Japanese population have, as Kurokawa put it, “an uncertainty about existence, a lack of faith in the visible, a suspicion of the eternal.” What is also detectable in Metabolist work is a strong emphasis, stemming from traditional Japanese architecture, on the notion that buildings and cities should be true to their environs. In traditional Japanese buildings there is the idea that architecture should be as natural as possible and should be in harmony with the rest of nature, since it is, after all, only temporarily there. This ethos spurred the entire Japanese tradition of making buildings and cities as temporary structures, with the ideas of temporaneity and autochthony in-built. Autochthony, in particular, I think can be seen in Kurokawa’s design for the Nagoya City Art Museum, completed in 1987, for the way that the entrance, especially, seems to expose the formal structure of the building and seems also to ‘bleed’ into the area surrounding the building itself. This idea of impermanence was reflected in Kurokawa’s work as part of the Metabolism Movement, and his buildings were built to be removable, interchangeable and adaptable, both in time and space. All of these ideas mean that Metabolism infused a particularly Japanese Modernism with some of the key ideas of postmodernism in architecture; especially, truth to surroundings, rather than the implantation of a transposable and monolithic International Style. But there was also a profound sense of experimentation and search for the new, rather than simply the recombination and resurrection of the old, that marks Metabolism out as very much part of the canon of architectural Modernism, however much it may be a kind of proto-postmodernism. Experimentation was inherent in the ways in which the Metabolists worked and collaborated, which echoed the constant reshuffling and disciplinary revolutionizing that is characteristic of, for instance, the Bauhaus under Gropius. As Asada described it:
Group Metabolism has no strict rules or agreements. It’s a free and
 intimate group of architects, designers, and critics.
One of the ways in which this was manifested was in the profound interdisciplinarity of Metabolism as it merged with other fields of knowledge. So, we have Tomatsu’s sociology, Kurokawa’s Institute of Social Engineering, Awazu’s graphic design, as well as an engagement with the broader spheres of science, technology, and biology.
Metabolism, it could be said, belongs to the last heroic wave of architectural movements, in a period before the hastening of disciplinary specialization that we find with trends such as the otherwise exemplary Deconstructivist movement of Libeskind and Eisenman. Metabolism was anything but the manifestation of a recursive, architectural argument, but rather was profoundly open to the world, not least in its engagement with questions of environment and ecology. It therefore has many potential lessons for us today, as we search for ways in which design might lead us into the future. On the one hand, the challenges of sustainability, and therefore of urban wellbeing, demand that cultural production today reclaims its old sense of ambition and scale; that it once again embraces the possibilities of total design. Bruno Latour has recently called for an expanded role for design that extends "from the details of daily objects to cities, landscapes, nations, cultures, bodies, genes, and… to nature itself," welcoming this as a novel "political ecology" that might "ease modernism out of its historical dead end." This is not to say that we should resurrect anything like the monolithic aesthetic schemes of modernism itself, but rather that we should borrow from their ambition in order to form our own dynamic, shifting and alterable institutions and spaces of the future. Latour states that: "the little word 'design' could offer a very important touchstone for detecting where we are heading and how well modernism (and also postmodernism) has been faring." But one way of avoiding what is a potential pitfall of grand visions for the redesign and rebuilding of urban environments is to embrace possibilities for future change as an inherent facet of architectural and planning projects, in other words, to embrace impermanence and adaptability. It may not be too much of a stretch to imagine Metabolism as an object lesson in the way in which architecture might straddle these dual demands of the revisioning of the urban context and urban society, while at the same time accommodating uncertainty, becoming, and the changeable.
This article originally appeared as Architecture, Art and Metabolism on urbanNext.
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Fire may have wiped out archive of Skopje's design by Tange, Isozaki, Doxiadis, and others

The Institute for Town Planning and Architecture in Skopje, Macedonia has vanished in a fire on April 21, 2017. The Institute housed an archive of one of the largest post-earthquake reconstructions orchestrated after World War II. This urban reconstruction was led by Kenzo Tange with Arata Isozaki and involved scores of international architects and planners. They included Doxiadis, Van der Broek, Bakema, Polish architects, as well as domestic Yugoslav planners mainly coming from Croatia. The archive housed documents of the rebuilding: plans, memos, reports, booklets, books, and models. Many of them have been lost. This fire has largely been reported in local media. Artists, architects, and the public created a series of postings on social media. It is not clear what the scale of the damage has been. The planning institute was housed in a construction barrack ever since the earthquake. It is not clear why the Institute did not move to a more permanent location. However, and under lesser known circumstances, a few years ago, the barrack that housed the Institute was foreclosed and became an occasional squat for homeless. The records on the internet, social media, and personal mail show books, stacks, and flat files covered in black ash. According to these records, the site is still left uncleared although this may have been changed. Tange's reconstruction plan was a response to the 1963 earthquake that leveled large parts of Skopje. As a rapid response, Yugoslav socialist leader Josip Broz Tito initiated a solidarity campaign to invite the world experts to lead the reconstruction. As the aid started to come into Skopje, including construction material, prefabricated homes, and machines, it was quickly dubbed as the "City of Solidarity." The United Nations ran a competition for the reconstruction. The First Prize went to Kenzo Tange whose team proposed a mixture of brutalist and Metabolist urbanism. Several revisions were made. As a result, other teams including Croatians, Dutch, Greeks, and Slovenians joined the planning and design efforts. Several masterpieces got built, including infrastructure, housing, and cultural projects. The brutalist aesthetic almost overnight became Macedonia's new identity. In 2010 Abitare magazine carried my article about heightening tensions in Skopje with photographs by Armin Linke. The tension between left and right wing politics focused on brutalist architecture as a key culprit in the conflict. The younger architects in Skopje were already preparing for the worst, while still organizing opposition to a nationalist re-branding of their city in clever ways. Unfortunately, the government proceeded with the plan called Skopje 2014. This ongoing plan involves about two dozen government buildings and hundreds of monuments in a kitsch neo-classical style. The reason goes deep into state identity politics and Macedonia's disputed use of its own country name led by Greece. The center of the dispute is the claim that Alexander the Great is allegedly from Macedonia. According to Skopje 2014, Macedonia must assert its "true" national identity by building fake classical architecture. We predicted that "Skopje will disappear" because of this bold, nationalist pseudo-classical proposal to hide anything Tange did. The article can be found here. Later on, we moved to publish two books documenting socialist architecture in Yugoslavia. They included Skopje's planning institute and records of Tange's legacy within a larger context. The planning institute we visited was indeed housed in a construction barrack. The dark wooden corridors displayed the architectural successes of Tange's master plan via black and white photography. The conference room had a wooden model of the master plan displayed on the large table in the center. On the walls were original plans for zoning, traffic circulation, and all that usually fits into a master plan. Rolls of rolled paper were in plastic buckets designed in the 1960s. There were pencils next to the model. All was authentic, except for a cheerful: "Happy New 2009" colored paper arrangement on the front wall. I realized that I did not just enter the Institute for Planning and Architecture, but a memorial for the plan itself. The reconstruction of Skopje, an icon of a brutalist phoenix, was on display as a permanent exhibit. This is not the first fire of brutalist architecture in Skopje. The last fire occurred in 2013 when a brutalist post-office, again designed by the Yale graduate, was partly damaged. Then we can mention the fire at Yale in 1968... or fires caused by the traumatic memory of loss in films by Andrei Tarkovski (Mirror) and by Wim Wenders (Paris Texas). Each house on fire is a testament of erasure or conflict rather than resolution. In Skopje, an ongoing clash between the left and the right makes anti-fascist and nationalist positions binaries in war. Thus the right in power labeled Tange's urbanism as socialist and tried everything to hide it. This includes the plan called Skopje 2014. This plan, still ongoing, is a series of Las Vegas style pseudo-classical sculptures and government institutions built to hide socialism. Fingerpointing is relatively easy, but prone to manipulation.
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Relive the glory of the 1970 Osaka Expo, complete with space frames, Metabolism, inflatables, and geodesic domes

As Expo Milano 2015 continues to wow millions of visitors with stunning architecture and innovative exhibitions about the future of food production, we can’t help but get a little nostalgic for some past Expos. While London 1851 (Crystal Palace) and New York 1939 (The World of Tomorrow) are close to our hearts, it is the 1970 Expo in Osaka that really gets us fired up. Take a look at the seemingly endless stream of fantastic designs after the jump. The fair was initiated in 1965 and realized in 1970. From its conception to its realization, the following events happened: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were assassinated, The Vietnam War started, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and the protests of 1968 erupted. This historically, politically, and socially complex time was matched by its architecture, which experienced a surge in innovation and experimentation in a variety of flavors. The 1970 Osaka Expo showcased many of the strains of technological and social revolutions that were informing the built environment of the time, and the possible futures that architecture could deliver, under the theme “Progress and Harmony for Mankind.” The result was one of the most explosive displays of architectural invention ever. It was master planned by two of the masters of the Metabolist movement in Japan, Kenzo Tange and Uzo Nishiyama. The pair represented two waves of Japanese postwar design, as Tange was a technocrat, and Nishiyama was a Marxist, more socially-driven in his ambitions to fight for the lower classes. The Metabolists saw the fair as the realization of the urban ideas that they had been developing in the 1950s and 1960s. The grounds were conceived as a living, changing organism with a central “spine that could serve as the center of a future city." For more on the plan of the site, visit Kenzo Tange and the Metabolist Movement: Urban Utopias of Modern Japan by Zhongjie Li. The pavilions came from 76 countries, one colony (Hong Kong), three US states, and one German city. The pavilions were a mélange of the incredible experiments that were taking place in the 1960s. Space frames, prefabrication, technological integration, tensile structures, domes, inflatables, metabolism, and space travel were some of the themes shined through, and set a very high bar for future Expos. Dennis Crompton, a founder of Archigram, told the AN that he really enjoyed his time there because “it was the first time many of those ideas appeared in built form.” (They had an exhibition in the show, but more on that later.) Of course, not everyone shares Archigram’s embrace of pop culture and fantastic architecture. Many critics called it an amateurish, over the top celebration of national one-upmanship and consumerism that sacrificed many of architecture’s ideals, succumbing to politics and industry, which used the image of bombastic design to seem progressive. The main festival venue, designed by Tange, was an enormous space frame that could house performances, and each country got time for their own traditions and performances, such as Thailand’s 16-day Elephant Festival. Kiyonori Kikutake designed the Festival Tower, which took on a high-tech aesthetic and loomed above the site. Kisho Kurokawa (of Capsule Tower fame) designed one of the three capsule houses suspended over the Festival Plaza. An enormous fountain designed by Isamu Noguchi rained water down. The National Pavilions took on a myriad of wild and technologically advanced forms. Transportation options included gondolas, a free perimeter monorail, and roller coasters. One of the more unusual parts of the Expo was Arata Isozaki’s “Demonstration Robot,” an enormous "robot" that featured a control booth in its head, arms that moved, and legs that raised it 24 feet off the ground, creating a stage in its base. Not surprisingly, Archigram had an installation in the show. Produced alongside their friend Kurokawa. They shared an affinity for organic shapes and clip-on elements that could expand and re-configure structures easily. Kurokawa collaborated with Archigram on their exhibition as part of the Japanese Pavilion. It include a dimly lit space with a “Futures Peepshow” and a “yes-no” button for audience participation. This is certainly true for one of the Expo’s more prescient projects, the Pepsi Pavilion, designed by the art collective Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.). The building was a dome that immersed visitors in projected images, while the exterior featured a cloud-like water vapor sculpture that enveloped the faceted exterior of the dome. It was Diller Scofidio and Renfro’s Blur Building 30 years earlier. For more, visit Kaput Magazine, Pink Tentacle, or Flavorwire.
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Grow-Life: A Metabolist Science Fair, or, Cross-Contamination

After an earthquake and tsunami devastated the Sendai region of Japan on March 11, 2011, a lengthy recovery and rebuilding is underway. This is the basis for Nanako Umemoto and Jesse Reiser's "SUPERJURY," a collaboration between Princeton University, Tokyo University, Osaka Sangyo University, California College of the Arts, Tsinghua University, and Nagoya Institute of Technology. It explores large-scale reconstruction solutions which mediate between occasionally conflicting political interests of infrastructure construction, economic redevelopment, and memorialization of the site. Serving as inspiration was the utopian planning of Japanese Metabolism that addressed the destruction of WWII Japan, a situation similar to the devastation of the Sendai region. All parties convened at Princeton's School of Architecture on Tuesday, May 15 for a "science fair" of their research findings and proposals. The political, social, and cultural "cross-contamination" that is fostered by this type of collaboration breeds new ideas and addresses the specific issue more sensitively. But it also offeres a new model for an architecture studio. Rather than a unilateral critique by a jury of experts, this format permitted an open dialogue between students and faculty, which not only incorporated a group of diverse viewpoints, but also a local cultural sensitivity which is often missing in global projects where the site is thousands of miles away from the designer. For instance, people in Sendai are more interested in creating a memorial for the nearly 15,000 dead or missing. This cultural sensitivity could be easily overlooked by a simple studio project, but the network of schools offers multiple viewpoints, and thus new understandings. The studio prompts the question, what is large-scale? Is it top-down planning from nothing? Or is a system of smaller-scale objects that grow out into a networked system? Some proposals were large-scale infrastructural projects, others were memorials, and others mediated between the two by exploring how time could change the site. It could start as memorial, but transition, or grow, into a more utopian project of infrastructure. This is a rethinking of the original concept of Metabolism, one which proposed utopian visions based on single-family units that were then replicated and repeated. Unfortunately, the Metabolist approach still ended in top-down plans, simply focused on the small-scale as a departure point to Corbusian masterplanning. The SUPERJURY studios looked to return to Metabolism's roots, and proposed ground-up plans which could grow organically over time with all the social, political, and cultural thinking that Metabolism's rhetoric possessed, but that the work lacked. The explorations mainly focused on future energy systems, future water systems, and developmental expansion in the large-scale infrastructural landscape. Natural ecological systems, as well as past utopian projects such as Kenzo Tange's Tokyo Bay Project and Arata Isozaki's Sky City were examined as precedent. Newer developments in China and the Middle East were examined, too. All in all, the timely nature of this innovative and important studio was on ample display. Hopefully in the future, more institutions can foster this kind of networked, international collaboration.
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A Questioning Koolhaas

Rem Koolhaas cut the interviewer short when asked if he had any regrets: “That’s a private matter and therefore not one I will answer.” And yet the entire hour-long conversation provided what seemed to be almost shockingly intimate glimpses into the architect’s state of mind, where feelings of being lonely, isolated, ineffectual, nostalgic, and even old seemed simmering. The event was LIVE, a series offering public interviews of topical characters, held in a sumptuous Victorian-age hall at the New York Public Library. And Rem Koolhaas with Hans Ulrich Obrist were there to talk with event curator Paul Holdengraber about their new book Project Japan: Metabolism Talks. The capacity audience numbered over 400, strong in architect professionals, including Marion Weiss, Michael Manfredi, SO-IL’s Jing Liu, Beatriz Colomina, Paul Goldberger, Suzanne Stephens, MoMA’s Pedro Gadhano, and Family’s Dong-Ping Wong among so many others. And they were all ears when Holdengraber said he had asked Koolhaas and Obrist to define themselves in seven words: Koolhaas gave a clear-cut six: mystic, rational, sober, baroque, patient, immediate. Obrist, sort of eight: catalyst, conversation, curating curiosity, guidance-making, and protest against forgetting. In a brief introduction, Koolhaas returned to a subject he’d addressed at the Japan Society a few nights before: How Kisho Kurokawa managed to be a magazine-posing celebrity architect in his day (1950s and 60s) who was still taken seriously enough to influence the direction of postwar Japan. “He was prominent enough to interview the prime minister,” Koolhaas noted, and you could almost feel the waves of longing and envy welling up. Today, he said, the effect is the opposite: the more media exposure, the less architects are taken seriously. Even more, the architect said, Kurokawa provided a postwar model for being male in Japan. (And that without wearing a black turtleneck.) The Metabolists worked together, and with the country almost entirely in ruins, their thinking as a group became “an extension of the imagination of the state.” Perhaps. What the Metabolists actually recommended in terms of architecture—floating fortresses, sky villas, pod-dwellings—seemed less of interest than the camaraderie of ideas. In contrast, Koolhaas said, “We are all lonely operators with very little cooperation. They could stand together and work in a movement.” And though the work itself dealt with impossibilities of scale and entirely broken down systems in desperate need, the united effort was “a miracle to behold.” Glossing over the homogeneity of postwar Japanese society with competitive zeal fueled by peer humiliations, Koolhaas apparently finds that zeitgeist preferable to today’s market economy where “architecture has been warped and separated from anything important and no longer serves the public good, but only the good of private interests.” The sheer Japanoiserie of Japanese architecture impressed both Obrist and Koolhaas who attribute that quality to modern architects having never cut off tradition but allowing it to flow continuously from the past and into their work. The same, he said, could never be said of a French, Dutch, or Swiss architect (pace Zumthor). It means something to be a Japanese architect, Koolhaas contended, while elsewhere, “architects have disintegrated to insignificance.” Such self-flagellating remarks have been voiced before by the profession’s most Sphinxian sage. And yet when he spoke of meeting with surviving Metabolists—some of them politically reactionary, to his surprise— it was how they coped with their advancing years that seems to have caught his attention most: "Perhaps old age requires strategy more than any other point in life. The conversations demonstrated touchingly that it is more crucial to exploit your limitations than to survive your gifts. As memory weakens, vision is your only option," Koolhaas said at the end, paraphrasing his book and, still marveling, added “It was magnificent to see the tactical ticking in their brains on how to make a good impression.” And so it was.
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Quick Clicks> Pedal-Theatre, Reading Rem, Wall Street Logos, Ranking Creativity

Cinema Pedal-iso. In London, you now have an alternative to the typical energy-consuming movie theater. The Cycle-In Cinema (led by a non-profit education project called Magnificent Revolution) allows you to to plug your bike into a generator, hop on, and start pedaling away for an entirely human-powered movie experience. More at Inhabitat. Reading Rem. Rem has a new book written with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist all about Japanese modernism. To be released this November, Project Japan: Metabolism Talks… documents "the first non-Western avantgarde movement in architecture" from post-war Tokyo in the 1960s and includes rare images from Manchuria to Tokyo, snapshots of the Metabolists at work and play, and architectural models. An advance preview and signing is coming up soon at the TASCHEN book store. Branding a Protest. The NY Times' Seymour Chwast draws attention to Occupy Wall Street's lack of a logo. As the demonstrations gain momentum, Chwast said now is a perfect time to consider branding, suggesting a 19th-century, cigar-smoking baron. Creativity Worldcup. Has the Gross National Product outlived its usefulness in determining the success of nations? Over at The Atlantic Cities, Richard Florida has compiled a list of top cities using his Global Creativity Index ranking global economic competitiveness and prosperity. According to the GCI, which evaluates and ranks 82 nations on the three "T's" (Technology, Talent, and Tolerance), the U.S. ranks second only to Sweden, the world-champion of creativity.