Metabolism was an important Japanese movement in architecture in the postwar period, drawing on both international modernism and elements of Japanese vernacular building. Like international modernism, Metabolism addressed both building design and urban planning; it used new technologies to suspend buildings in space and introduced components for a more flexible built environment, such as the pod or plug-in capsule—devices taken up in parallel by Archigram in Britain—that give the user the role of completing the building (while implying that it may change again and never be completed). But Metabolism was also part of the rebuilding of Japanese identity after 1945 and the firebombing that erased large parts of most Japanese cities, not just Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Metabolists brought progressive values to the project and emphasized a need for public-sector initiatives—in contrast to today's privileging of the private sector under neoliberalism. Metabolism is worth reconsidering, then, both because it adds a chapter to the history of international modernism and because it extends the field of modernism through an architecture not only of international harmony but also of national reconstruction.
Metabolism: A Japanese ModernismMetabolism: A Japanese ModernismMalcolm Miles
Malcolm Miles is professor of cultural theory in the School of Architecture, Design and Environment at the University of Plymouth. He is the author of Herbert Marcuse: An Aesthetics of Liberation (2011), Urban Utopias: The Built and Social Architectures of Alternative Settlements (2008), Cities and Cultures (2007), and Urban Avant-Gardes (2004) and has contributed to journals such as Space and Culture, Cultural Geographies, Third Text, and Urban Studies. He is currently working on a book on eco-aesthetics. Website: www.malcolmmiles.org.uk.